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Teaching A Dream Called Home:

In the classroom. First-Year Experience instructors and Peer Mentors are encouraged to tie in themes and lessons from Reyna’s story throughout the entire course. Below, you will see videos and articles that you are welcome to use in your class as well as different tools you can use to facilitate activities in your classroom.

Faculty can also review the resource guide for more information.

Videos and Articles:

Break students up into small groups and have them discuss the articles and videos and how they relate to the themes explored in "A Dream Called Home". Encourage students to go beyond summarizing the articles.


 Articles of Interest:

Topic Breakdown of The Course

  • Course introduction & Intro to Common Reading

    Show video on "A Dream Called Home".

    As a means to introduce students to each other and to the course material lead a 5-10 minute discussion reviewing the book. The discussion can be general impressions the students had of the book, and then introduce how the text can relate to the topics discussed in the course.

  • Mental Health

    Throughout A Dream Called Home, Reyna faces big life changes and some challenging decisions. For example, the book opens with Reyna narrating her journey north to attend a university for the first time, where she explains some of the conflict she feels over leaving her family behind in Los Angeles to pursue her dream of becoming a writer. Reyna also struggles in her relationship with her father, who was abusive to her and her siblings growing up. Her father constantly told her that she would never make anything of herself or be able to finish school. Reyna felt the need to prove herself and defy all the expectations of her family. First year students may face similar life changes when leaving their families behind for the first time or choosing to pursue a certain path in college that their family may disagree with.

    In Class: Discuss with students how changes they may be experiencing can have an impact on mental health, what resources are offered at FIU (e.g. Counseling and Psychology Services (CAPS) and Victim Empowerment Program), and that they should not be afraid or ashamed to use them to help them cope and stay mentally healthy.

  • Time Management

    When Reyna was in college and had her sister Betty living with her, time management was essential to her success. After Reyna had a son and began to raise him on her own, Reyna also had to manage the pursuit of her writing career and completion of her master’s degree. She not only learned how to manage her time, but also learned the value of it.

    In Class: Discuss with students how Reyna managed her time and ask them to provide similar examples of ways they can manage their other responsibilities such as work and family along with school. Also lead a discussion on what it means to value your time, and how to manage it based on the value we each assign to the time we have.

  • Stress Managment

    Reyna had to deal with plenty of stress throughout her transition to college. Not only did she move away from home and her family, but she also had to carry the complete financial burden of school and all of her living expenses. When she first arrived at UC Santa Cruz, she struggled to make friends and also struggled in her classes. She felt different and alone because it was hard for her to relate to her non-Latinx classmates and professors. After college, she dealt with the stress of finding a job to support herself and then her son. Reyna also dealt with the stress of the guilt she felt over her decision to distance herself from her family.

    In Class: Discuss stressors with students and how they can impact their transition to FIU. The transition to college can be stressful for many first-year students, especially those who may, like Reyna, be struggling with finances, familial relationships, cultural identity, and making friends.  Have students come up with ways to cope with these different stressors, including things like joining clubs and organizations at FIU to get involved, make friends, and create healthy outlets for stress.

  • Relationships

    Relationships are a major theme in Reyna’s life and in A Dream Called Home. Reyna does not give up trying to reconcile her relationships with her father, mother, and her siblings while trying to establish her new-found independence at the University of Santa Cruz. Reyna’s relationships with her mentors, such as her instructor Marta Navarro, also played an important role in her education and career. Her strained relationships with her family members taught her about her own strength and ability to persevere even when those you love the most may not believe that you can. Her relationships with her mentors provided her with the support she needed in order to get to a place where she believed in herself enough to take those steps toward independence. Reyna also struggled at first to make friends, especially because she felt that there were no other students who could relate to her cultural background as a Latina. Eventually, however, she was able to make friends with her roommates. One of her roommates even took her to a protest on campus where Reyna learned that there were plenty of other Latinx and minority students who she could relate to her. This helped her to feel less alone. From there, Reyna began to have an easier time finding her place in school. She even joined a folklórico dance group which helped her feel more connected. Finally, Reyna also struggled with some unhealthy relationships with romantic partners throughout her adulthood as well. She had an unhealthy relationship with the man who would eventually become her father’s son, Francisco.

    In Class: Discuss with students some of Reyna’s relationships, and how their relationships will play a role in their transition to college and beyond. It is important to establish the difference between good and bad relationships and how they can affect people both positively and negatively.
    To prepare students to write their essay, also have them discuss themes from the book (as a class or in small groups). Here is a list of some themes in A Dream Called Home:

    First GenerationSacrifice Forgiveness
    AbandonmentMental HealthWork/Life Balance
    CultureSocioeconomic StatusDetermination
    InequalityCulture ShockExpectations
    American Dream
  • Common Reading

    In Class: Have students discuss with the class what they wrote about in their essays.

    Optional: Show this video on A Dream Called Home 

    You can also have students read one of the following articles written by Reyna herself:

    A Migrant’s Story
    Immigration and Transformation: My Literary Metamorphosis
    The Trauma of Immigrating Didn’t Stop When I Crossed the Border

  • Life Skills Wrap Up

    Since Reyna was on her own during her time at the University of Santa Cruz, she had to develop important life skills in order to be responsible for her own success. Some of these skills have been discussed in class previously, such as when she learned to manage her mental health, or time and stress management. Reyna also had to learn how to find affordable housing, deal with roommates, and find ways to eat healthy on a budget. An example of another very important life skill Reyna had to learn and develop is financial literacy. Since her family did not contribute financially to her education, Reyna had to navigate financial aid, paying for housing, and finding a job to support herself.

    In Class: Discuss with students some of the life skills Reyna had to develop and have them explain how they can use these life skills in their academic, personal, and professional lives.

  • 21st Century Skills

    While Reyna attended college and grew into adulthood at a different time than your students, she too had to adapt to an ever changing and developing society. Being a first-generation college student especially presented Reyna with its own unique challenges, such as being exposed to certain social issues for the first time. Reyna’s roommate, Carolyn, takes her to a demonstration on campus where minority students were protesting Prop 209, a proposition that passed, doing away with affirmative action in California. For the first time, Reyna considers how her identity as a Latina woman impacted her admission to a four-year university. This also helped her to meet other students she could relate to and support social issues she cared about with them.

    In Class: Have students pick an issue that affects them or the world around them and discuss how this may impact them. For example, the debate around affirmative action still continues in many universities across the country. There are also issues surrounding immigration such as revisions to the DREAM Act that make it harder for people to qualify, as well as the issues of children being detained at our borders and being separated from their families.

  • Creativity

    Reyna’s creativity and ability to think outside the box are what made it possible for her to pursue her dreams and the life she always wanted for herself. Reyna’s creative writing is what carried her through college, graduate school, and all the way to fulfilling her dream of becoming a writer. Reyna also joined a folklórico dance group in college, which was another important creative outlet for her. She even used her knowledge of dance in her professional career as a teacher to start a dance group with her students. Reyna’s ability and willingness to express and explore her thoughts, emotions, and life experiences through her stories made her realize that she was meant to continue to share her stories with others, to help empower them the way she was empowered through reading her favorite writers.

    In Class: Discuss with students how thinking creatively can help them both in challenging situations as well as in their everyday life in college.

  • Collaboration

    Reyna had to work together with others in order to persevere when she felt like giving up. After making the difficult decision to kick her sister Betty out of their shared apartment and removing Betty from her life for the time being, she returned to her studies with a newfound determination. Her instructor Marta was there to give her the support and push she needed. Marta was the first person to suggest that Reyna should publish her short story collection, and then give her the guidance she needed in order to do just that. Reyna also had her writing group after she was accepted into the Emerging Voices writing fellowship program. This collaboration with her peers, who were all working towards similar goals, was very important to her success.

    In Class: Throughout their time in college, students will need to collaborate with others in order to persevere through hard times or to gain access to opportunities they wouldn’t have otherwise. Have students discuss the importance of collaboration.

  • Design Thinking

    In Class: How can design thinking be used by organizations and programs promoting awareness and education of issues relating to some of the themes explored in A Dream Called Home, such as immigration, class disparity, and issues of access to higher education (students who are undocumented, come from a lower socioeconomic upbringing, do not speak English, etc. have a harder time accessing higher education)?

  • Opportunity/Course Wrap Up

    Opportunity: Reyna takes her life experiences as an immigrant who survived a dangerous border crossing, a survivor of childhood abuse, a first-generation college student and graduate, and turns them into an opportunity to spread education and awareness. Discuss with students how they can draw on their personal experiences to create opportunities in their own lives.

    Course Wrap Up: Reyna has devoted her life to teaching others and sharing her message with the world. She is passionate about sharing her experience, even though it was difficult for her at first, because she realizes the importance of education on these issues, especially for other immigrant children and families. It is her legacy. Have students reflect on what they are passionate about and how these passions can play into their future, and even their time here at FIU. Encourage them to seek out involvement opportunities on campus related to their interests and passions.

Additional Questions for Discussion

Reading Group Guide provided by Simon & Schuster

  • Question 1

    1. Discuss the epigraph that begins A Dream Called Home. Why do you think Grande has chosen to begin her memoir with this quote? How does it help you understand her as both an immigrant and an author?

  • Question 2

    2. Although Reyna Grande’s hometown, Iguala de la Independencia, has a rich history, it is a poor city where over 70 percent of the population is living in poverty. As a child, Grande writes that she “had been able to see past the imperfections and find the beauty of my hometown.” (p. 46) What are some of the moments of beauty that she finds? Describe Grande’s visits back to Iguala. How does the way that Grande sees her hometown evolve when she returns?

  • Question 3

    3. Grande writes “My biggest virtue and my biggest flaw was the tenacity with which I clung to my dreams, no matter how futile they might seem to others.” (p. 5) Explain her statement. Why does Grande see this quality in herself as both negative and positive? How does this trait serve her? What are some of the dreams that Grande holds on to? 

  • Question 4

    4. After Reyna learns the word “impervious,” she “knew it was a word I wanted to be defined by.” (p. 74) Why does the word appeal to Reyna? Do you think that it is an apt description of her personality? Why or why not? If you could only define yourself with one word, what would you choose? Explain your answer.

  • Question 5

    5. Although “Where are you from?” is an “innocent question,” Grande writes that it “always confused me when asked by a white person.” (p. 11) Why is the question such a charged one for Reyna and other immigrants? When Reyna is asked where she’s from by other Latino students, her reaction is different. Why?

  • Question 6

    6. Grande writes having “the name Reyna Grande, ‘the big queen,’ when you are only five feet tall sets you up for a lifetime of ridicule.” (p. 29) In what other ways does Reyna’s name affect the way that people perceive her? Describe her reaction to being called “Renée Grand” by one of her teachers at UCSC. What appeal does having an Anglicized name hold for her? Why does she resist it?

  • Question 7

    7. When Reyna returns to Mexico and visits her family, her young cousin is fascinated with her life in America and asks if she lives in Disneyland. Reyna thinks, “I didn’t live in Disneyland, but I did live in a magical place.” (p. 228) Why does she see America as a magical place despite all of the hardships that she’s encountered since immigrating? Did reading about Reyna’s experience as an immigrant change your perspective about life in the United States?

  • Question 8

    8. When visiting Betty in Mexico, Reyna wonders “why both Betty and I had an unhealthy need to be loved and wanted by men.” (p. 53) What does she think the root cause for this trait is? How has the sisters’ childhood affected the way they handle themselves as adults? Describe some of the ways that both Betty and Reyna have attempted to cope with their traumatic upbringings.

  • Question 9

    9. Why does Reyna decide to take a Spanish for Spanish Speakers class? When Reyna confides in Marta, her instructor, about her feelings of inadequacy when visiting Mexico, Marta tells her, “It isn’t that you aren’t enough. In fact, the opposite is true.” (p. 96) What does she mean? Does Marta’s perspective help Reyna to reframe her experience? In what ways?

  • Question 10

    10. While Reyna is enrolled at UCSC, she takes a summer job as part of the maintenance crew at Kresge College. Ironically, although Reyna “had hoped to forget my father . . .my work on the paint crew brought me closer to him.” (p. 100) Describe the work that Reyna and her crewmates are tasked with. How does this work give Reyna new insight into her father?

  • Question 11

    11. Seeing Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston speak is a watershed moment for Reyna. She writes that the experience leads her to “fully grasp what a writer did.” (p. 128) Why does Reyna find Wakatsuki’s appearance and her story so empowering? What is the role of the writer according to Reyna? Does she embody this ideal? If so, how?

  • Question 12

    12. When Reyna is having difficulty finding employment, Norma advises her to apply for a job as a seasonal worker in a clothing store telling her that “a job is a job.” (p. 154) Why is Reyna resistant to apply? What would you do if you were in her position? Why do her siblings give her a hard time about the position?

  • Question 13

    13. How does Mago react when Reyna tells her that she’s planning on going back to school to take writing classes? Were you surprised by Mago’s reaction? Reyna tells Mago that she’s “doing this for both of us.” (p. 208) Why is it so important for Reyna to go back to school? In what ways does it help her and Nathan?

  • Question 14

    14. Before Reyna begins teaching, she reflects upon her favorite teachers, trying to determine what about their methods she can imitate. What does Reyna admire about Diana, Marta, and Micah? What makes them successful teachers? What did you think of Reyna’s teaching methods? What challenges does she face as a new teacher? Is she able to connect with her students? If so, how?

  • Question 15

    15. When Reyna mails her application for the Emerging Voices program, Diana says “This is going to change your life” (p. 215). Why do you think Diana was so certain that Reyna would be accepted? Did Reyna have as much belief in her future? Think of an event that changed the course of your life. Did you recognize the importance of the event at the time or only in hindsight? How would your life be different today had this event not occurred?

  • Question 16

    16. Reyna chooses to turn down the book offer from the editor who wants to make her protagonist U.S.-born. Why was it so important to Reyna to keep her main character an immigrant? Would you have made the same choice? Why or why not? What other difficult choices does Reyna make throughout the memoir? What difficult choices have you made in your life?

  • Question 17

    17. Grande writes of the moment when she first held her published book. “I had finally built a home that I could carry.” (p. 316) What do you think she means by this? What other “homes” does Reyna build? What does the title A Dream Called Home mean to you?

Activities for Teaching

Response Cards

  • Give each student an index card. Ask them to briefly write down their questions, thoughts, comments, etc. and have them turn in their cards for discussion.

 Group Discussions

  • Have students pair up or get in small groups to talk about the book, the current topics review in class, and how it relates to their current experiences as a student at FIU.

 Word Clouds

  • Have students submit key words describing their thoughts on the book and talk about the most reoccurring words. (students can use Poll Everywhere or Mentimeter for this activity)

 Teach the Class

  • Pick a theme(s) relating to the common reading book and have students teach their peers about themes in the book.

 Journal Writing

  • At the beginning of every new chapter, have students jot down a few lines of their experiences at FIU and how they might relate to Reyna’s story.