Author Reyna Grande focuses on themes of immigration. His memoir, “The Distance Between Us”, has been published in editions for adults and young readers. She also wrote a few pieces of fiction that were loosely based on her experience of coming to the United States from Mexico as a child.
Grande’s new book, “A Ballad of Love and Glory,” takes readers in a different direction, connecting two important military figures from the Mexican-American War through an equally important fictional intermediary. The book is Grande’s first historical fiction, and she chose a time and place that fascinates her.
CapRadio’s Donna Apidone told Grande why the period resonated with her and why she felt empowered to write about it.
On the Significance of the Mexican-American War
I didn’t know if I wanted to write a story about the war, but now I’m so glad I did. I feel so inspired to talk about this period and lead us to reclaim our history. As a Latino writer, I constantly look at what we haven’t written enough about. The Mexican-American War is a war the United States does not remember and Mexico cannot forget.
On the Irish battalion that fought for Mexico
St Patrick’s Battalion was a company made up mostly of Irish soldiers who deserted the US Army, and they switched sides to defend Mexico against the United States. I was very fascinated by that. I started reading about John Riley, who was the chief of St. Patrick’s Battalion, and fell in love with the story.
On the inclusion of Irish soldiers by the Mexicans
They were known to welcome foreigners into their ranks. Many generals and officers in the Mexican army were born abroad. The Mexicans welcomed Riley and the other deserters and treated them with great respect. It is documented that they made him a first lieutenant, and he became a colonel in the end.
Finding yourself in history
For me, it was really empowering to write this book because as a Mexican living in California, it helped me see myself not as an outsider anymore, but as someone who actually belongs here. California was part of Mexico. Spanish was spoken there before English. It just empowered me in a way that I hadn’t felt empowered by finally saying, “You know what? I am not the stranger here.
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