Estes Park Trail Gazette – Hundreds gather for author’s insights and inspirations

By Kurtis KellyEstes Valley Library Communications Specialist

A great author makes a magical connection with readers. All the more magical when an author connects with a live audience.

Such was the occasion one week ago in Estes Park, as we welcomed acclaimed writer Reyna Grande for the featured event of this year’s One Book One Valley season, hosted by the Estes Valley Library.

Over 200 attendees gathered at two public events — one offered in English, one in Spanish — to hear Grande share the inspirations that led to the writing of her memoir, “The Distance Between Us,” a book that is at once entrancing, heartbreaking and yet filled with hope. The following day, over 100 students from Estes Park High School and Eagle Rock School met Grande in their classrooms during her visit. It was all made possible through the support of the Library Friends & Foundation.

Grande first earned acclaim for her two novels, but the writing of a personal family memoir required a journey of courage that nearly halted her in her tracks on several occasions. In the process, she shared her narrative with siblings and parents, ultimately receiving their blessing to tell a story that was one of painful separations across a national border, parental abandonment and moments of cruelty, and the struggle to forge an identity as both an immigrant in a new land and an exile from a former homeland.

Grande explained her journey of forgiveness, as she ultimately reconciled with the past with the family members of her present.

While the book seeks foremost to tell a story of family bonds and fractures, it inevitably has given voice to immigrants.

“Immigrants are often made to feel voiceless,” Grande observed. “We become quiet and invisible.”

But the forced exercise of writing — of storytelling — led Grande to an opposite effect. “Only by sharing and listening can we build bridges.”

She encouraged everyone to be the sharers of their stories. And by the many responses from audience members, Grande’s book has clearly left readers inspired.

One Estes Park resident told Grande how she and her children have been reading the book together. One recent evening, the family became so engrossed in the narrative that they hadn’t realized two hours had gone by and it was 10:30 p.m., way past bedtime.

This year’s One Book One Valley has hosted special programs on writing your family story, tracing your family roots, and exploring similar stories as depicted in film.

And this Monday evening, Oct. 23 at 6 p.m., we host an integral component of our month-long series: the Immigration Simulation and Panel Discussion event. Inspired by “The Distance Between Us,” this program invites participants to walk in the shoes of our ancestors and other American arrivals through a virtual immigration experience. Included is an online website simulation, which will then be discussed by a panel of guests. Register at

Register too for the Cultural Craft event where we’ll be making giant paper flowers on Tuesday, Oct. 24 at 4 p.m. And Friday, Oct. 27 at 3 p.m., we’ll screen the PBS Independent Lens film, “The New Americans.”

May we all continue to celebrate through story.