In They Persisted: A Journey Towards Home acclaimed authors Julissa Arce, Reyna Grande, and Jean Guerrero explore the pathways they each took as authors from their unique early childhoods to the present with moderator Ivonne Ramirez. This session of the 2019 Tucson Festival of Books was curated by Pima County Public Library’s Nuestras Raíces Program.
Nuestras Raíces (‘Our Roots’) is a group of Pima County Public Library staff members who work together to celebrate and honor the culture, voice, and linguistic heritage of our Latinx and Spanish-speaking communities in Pima County. This is part 1 of a 2 part series. Recorded and produced by Amanda Shauger.
Julissa Arce is a best-selling author of MY (UNDERGROUND) AMERICAN DREAM. She was named one of People en Español’s 25 Most Powerful Woman of 2017. She is a leading voice in the fight for social justice, immigrant rights and education equality. Her second book, “Someone Like Me,” is her first Young Adult book and was published in September 2018. The paperback version will be out in the fall of 2019.
Julissa is a contributor for Crooked Media, CNBC, and one of the hosts of Crooked Conversations. Her book, “My Underground American Dream” is currently being developed as a television series with producer and actor America Ferrera.
Her commitment to education for all young people led her to co-create the Ascend Educational Fund (AEF) where she serves as chairwoman of the board. AEF is a college scholarship and mentorship program for immigrant students in New York City, regardless of their ethnicity, national original or immigration status. Since its founding in 2012, AEF has awarded over $400,000 in college scholarships.
Prior to becoming an advocate, she built a successful career on Wall Street working for Goldman Sachs and Merrill Lynch, and had seemingly achieved the American Dream—yet she was not part of what defined American.
Julissa immigrated to America from Mexico at the age of 11 and was undocumented for almost 15 years, some of them spent rising to prominence on Wall Street. She made national and international headlines when she revealed that she had achieved the American Dream of wealth and status at Goldman Sachs while undocumented.
Julissa now uses her inspirational story to change the conversation around immigration. A sought after speaker and political commentator, she gives talks at college campuses across the nation and events such as Tedx, the White House Latino Policy Summit, the Democratic National Convention, Politicon, and the Forbes Reinventing America Summit (alongside Nancy Pelosi, Jessica Alba, and Gayle King).
She has appeared on CNN, FOX NEWS, MSNBC, NPR, Fox Business News, Telemundo, Bloomberg TV and Univision among other networks. Her writing has been published on Crooked Media, Huffington Post, Fusion, CNN, CNN en Español, The Hill, and Univision. She serves on the board of directors of the National Immigration Law Center and CollegeSpring.
She has appeared on the cover of Alegria Magazine, received the Los Angeles Times “Latinos de Hoy Emerging Leader Award, the NAHREP’s Vanguard Award, the Hispanic Heritage Foundation Inspira Award, among other recognitions.
She was officially sworn in as an American citizen in August of 2014. Her story has a joyful ending and she fights so more people can say the same. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two cats, Nikko and Pancho.
Reyna Grande is the author of the bestselling memoir, The Distance Between Us, (Atria, 2012) where she writes about her life before and after illegally immigrating from Mexico to the United States. The much-anticipated sequel, A Dream Called Home (Atria), was released on October 2, 2018. Her other works include the novels, Across a Hundred Mountains, (Atria, 2006) and Dancing with Butterflies (Washington Square Press, 2009) which were published to critical acclaim. The Distance Between Us is also available as a young readers edition from Simon & Schuster’s Children’s Division–Aladdin. Her books have been adopted as the common read selection by schools, colleges, and cities across the country.
Reyna has received a Reyna is a proud member of the Macondo Writer’s Workshop founded by Sandra Cisneros, where she has also served as faculty. Currently, she teaches creative writing at writing conferences, travels across the country and abroad to give presentations about her books, and is at work on a novel set during the Mexican-American War.n American Book Award, the El Premio Aztlán Literary Award, and the International Latino Book Award. In 2012, she was a finalist for the prestigious National Book Critics Circle Awards, and in 2015 she was honored with a Luis Leal Award for Distinction in Chicano/Latino Literature. The young reader’s version of The Distance Between Us received a 2017 Honor Book Award for the Américas Award for Children’s and Young Adult Literature and a 2016 Eureka! Honor Awards from the California Reading Association, and an International Literacy Association Children’s Book Award 2017.
Born in Iguala, Guerrero, Mexico (where 43 college students disappeared in 2014), Reyna was two years old when her father left for the U.S. to find work. Her mother followed her father north two years later, leaving Reyna and her siblings behind in Mexico. In 1985, when Reyna was nine, she left Iguala to make her own journey north. She entered the U.S. as an undocumented immigrant and later went on to become the first person in her family to graduate from college.
After attending Pasadena City College for two years, Reyna obtained a B.A. in creative writing and film & video from the University of California, Santa Cruz. She later received her M.F.A. in creative writing from Antioch University.
Jean Guerrero is the author of CRUX: A Cross-Border Memoir (One World / Random House) winner of the PEN/FUSION Emerging Writers prize. She is an Emmy-winning investigative reporter for KPBS; she contributes to NPR, PBS and other public media. Her America’s Wall series shines a light on the bipartisan nature of US/Mexico border barriers. Months before Trump’s family separations captured national attention, her reporting was cited by a Congressional inquiry. She started her career at the Wall Street Journal and Dow Jones Newswires as a correspondent in Mexico City, trekking through mountains with coffee smugglers, opium poppy producers and maize farmers across Latin America. She was named the 2019 “Journalist of the Year” by the Society of Professional Journalists in San Diego, and honored as the “Latina Journalist On The Rise” by the California Chicano News Media Association. The San Diego City Beat picked her as one of San Diego’s “Best People.” Her writing is featured in the Best American Essays 2019.