The Distances Between Us—Turning the Story

Final Paper Assignment:

The Distances Between Us—Turning the Story

and System Upside Down


The “distance between us,” between citizens and non-citizens, is metaphorical and real. The Distance Between Us and A Better Life both rely on what critical race theorists call “counter-story telling.” Talk about Reyna Grande and Carlos Galindo’s stories and how they counter or challenge the majoritarian story about undocumented immigrants in the United States today. How did you feel when you finished watching A Better Life? How did you feel when you finished reading The Distance Between Us? What ultimately happens to Reyna? Does she finally escape “bare life?” Who intervenes and provides Reyna with hope and love? What are your thoughts on how we might resolve the immigration “crisis” in the United States? Can stories like Reyna, Carlos’, and Panchito’s (The Circuit) shorten the distance(s) between us? Or should we supplement that approach with empirical data (facts, reports, etc.) and radical historical analysis (focusing on U.S. actions in Latin America)? Might we focus on how the (capitalist) system is making all our lives increasingly bare, but rather than push for better lives through collective action, we work harder and harder and as we do, the distances between us grow ever deeper. Isn’t there some other way than building walls, putting children into concentration camps, and barely getting by?

Before you address these questions, please provide a short biographical or personal sketch; that is, tell us your story, how did you get here, where are your parents, grandparents, and elders from? How did they get to the United States? When does your story “begin,” as Esperanza stated in Salt of the Earth? How did you come into this class—awake and aware about the issues we have examined or relatively uniformed and maybe even indifferent or having a different perspective entirely than the one mostly taken in class?

Paper Mechanics

This paper should be 6-8 pages long. Follow all typical paper guidelines—double space pages, number all pages, 12 Times New Roman font, 1” margins, bibliography, cover page, etc. Include your section day, time, and teaching assistant name on the cover page please. Include at least two quotes from The Distance Between Us and at least one quote A Better Life.

Finally, please conduct one interview with a family member who can share with you stories about how you got here. Include one quote from that interview in your paper please. The interview should last about 30 minutes (more or less). I recommend making sure your family member is comfortable, relaxed, and has time to really open up and share with you. Accommodate them. They are sharing sacred information with you—record it, as these stories contain what some scholars and activists call “precious knowledge.” Show your gratitude by doing something for them—make them a meal, do something nice, caring, and loving that shows how much you appreciate them for sharing these stories. We all come from someplace and its important we document our histories, as we have seen in this class, too many stories have been hidden and locked away from us. Now, it may be painful for some people to talk about certain memories, so tread lightly and if it seems too much for your family member, give them time and space to process their feelings and suggest you could stop the interview. In other words, do what you feel is best—tread lightly and be compassionate, kind, and generous. Sometimes people are eager to share and even discuss what they have not spoken about for decades. Finally, I recommend conducting this interview during the holiday (Harvest/Thanksgiving break) in late November, but you could do it much sooner. You might even watch A Better Life with your family members and share stories from our class with your family member to get that discussion going.

Due December 3 no later than 8 AM. Late papers will be deducted one letter grade every day that they are not turned in. Good luck with this assignment. I hope that it will be challenging and rewarding as it asks you to explore some tough questions and explore your own story and life. Take good care!

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