LPC Literary Arts Festival
A Dream Called Home -- Curriculum Buffet
This page includes the following activities or activity suggestions:
- Character List
- Strong Line Journal
- Simile Search
- Theme List
- Reading Questions by Chapter
- Essay Questions
- Literary Arts Festival Activities\
- Media Resources
Also visit the Resources Page for images, videos, and links about the book's content.
Note to instructors:
This page is constantly under construction. I just read the book and put this together quickly for those who might wish to teach it next semester.
This wonderful memoir is not difficult reading, but it is 325 pages. I recommend attempting to finish it in less than 4 weeks. This page is more of a buffet than a cohesive unit. I've included options for activities and exercises below. The chapters are short, so you may not wish to assign the students both the Strong Line Journal and the Reading Questions for every chapter. Some of the activities might best be used as class discussion material. These activities were designed to work at multiple class levels (1A/EX/104 and across the curriculum), so you might wish to make them more or less rigorous based on your own class needs.
The author, Reyna Grande, is coming to speak and be on a panel for the LPC Literary Arts Festival, Saturday, May 9, 2020. Please try to bring your class to this event. Her keynote address will begin at 10 am and the memoir writing panel will begin at 11 am. The rest of the day will be filled with additional writing panels and workshops. We encourage you to offer your students the extra credit assignments to attend.
There are a lot of characters in this book. It's easy to forget who is who. When you read a book for a class, you may be asked to perform a number of tasks (i.e. discussions, reading questions, quizzes, or essays) for which you will need to know the characters' names. It's helpful to be able to keep track of the names with a list that you write on the inside cover of the book or on a separate piece of paper. As you encounter people in the book, determine if they are important to the story or the narrator. If so, write down the person's name and other descriptive information you find important (i.e. relationship to the narrator or main character, age, defining characteristics).
Strong and Hard Line Journal:
For each chapter, quote three strong lines, one to which you can relate, one that is an important development of plot or theme, and one that is a line that you liked (i.e. an idea or description). For each line, provide the quote, the page number in a parenthetical citation, and a detailed explanation as to how you can relate, why it's important to the plot or a theme, or why you liked the description.
In addition to these strong lines, write down a hard line or vocabulary word that you didn't understand. Be sure to look up the vocabulary.
Be prepared to discuss these in class.
Reyna Grande uses a number of similes throughout this memoir. Similes are comparisons using "like" or "as" or "as if" -- i.e. My heart is like an alligator, always hungry for more. (Metaphors replace one thing with another without like or as--i.e. my heart is an alligator.)
There are two similes in the first paragraph of the book. Once you start reading the book, locate these similes and discuss them. What do you think of them? What do they add to understanding the situation or feeling behind the descriptions?
Throughout the book, annotate when you find additional similes.
A literary theme is a subject or idea that's explored within a piece of writing. Sometimes the author attempts to create a message about this subject matter through discussion or dramatized events.
This memoir may seem to be focused on the central themes of immigration and education, but it explores many more ideas. Make a list of themes on a piece of paper as you read. Consider that you might want to write about one of these themes for an essay (see the list of essay questions below). You should then annotate your book whenever this theme arises so that you don't have to search for examples later, when writing your paper. Your instructor might bring up these themes in class discussions as well.
You may wish to use a shorthand annotation in the margins (i.e. IM for the theme of immigration or ED for education). As each of these themes are developed within the book, consider what message seems to be coming across about these ideas and if they change as the narrator changes.
This book touches on some very personal issues. To connect to the material and to think more deeply about these issues, these reading questions also touch on personal issues. For that reason, I will not read anything that you mark as "DO NOT READ." However, each of your answers should be well developed and detailed, when appropriate, with specific examples. We will look at exemplary answers in class to help model this development.
You must answer one pre-reading question and all of the post-reading questions for each chapter. Label the answers by chapter and number. If you wish, you can print out these questions with your answers. I will collect them all when we are done with the reading.
Annotate your reading for answers to the post-reading questions and for examples you might use for an essay (see essay questions).
Preview questions (to be answered individually or in a class discussion):
- What's the title of the book? Predict what it means?
- What's the name of the author and what is her background?
- What accolades has she earned?
- What themes do expect this book to explore from reading the front and back cover?
- Have you ever been to another country where you didn't speak the language? If so, what were your experiences?
- What are your experiences or feelings about undocumented immigration?
- What experiences do you or others you know have with abuse?
- What year was the book published?
- Is this book fiction or nonfiction?
- In the author's note, Grande states that people and events were omitted and names changed. The author also includes direct quotes from many years ago. Can we consider memory and memoir completely factual non-fiction?
- Read the dedication page to Diana and Cory. Predict what these dedications might mean. Who has served in these different roles for you?
- Read the epigraph by Patricia Engel. What does it mean? Predict how it might be applicable to this book.
For each chapter, answer one of the pre-reading questions and the post-reading question.
Pre-reading questions (answer individually or in a discussion before you read the chapter):
- Predict: What could the Book One title, "Twice the Girl I Used To Be," mean?
- What is the longest time you've been away from your family? How did you feel and why?
- What is your family's educational attainment level? Did your parents or siblings go to college?
- What is your family unit make up? Are your parents alive? Are they married, separated, divorced, or remarried?
Post-reading questions (after you read the chapter):
- What was Reyna's father's "betrayal"?
- What questions do strangers ask about you that make you uncomfortable?
- How do you define your identity?
- Why did Reyna's father leave Mexico? What was happening in 1977?
- What is your experience with homelessness? How do you feel about people asking for money?
- What is your experience with addicts or addiction? Explain.
- What is your favorite book and or character in a book?
- When and where have you felt like an outsider or foreigner?
- Why does Reyna connect with the homeless girl? What does it have to do with her past?
- Why do you think it matters to some people that you pronounce their names correctly? Why do you think some people don't care? To what degree might it have to do with power and society?
- Describe a time when someone helped you when you felt lost?
- Describe a class or learning situation in which you felt like an outsider or in which you felt misunderstood.
Post reading questions:
- How did Diana help Reyna?
- How does it feel for Reyna in her Theory and Interpretation class?
- Why is Jaime like Candide? (watch the video in the resources page)
- Describe a time you overcame a defeat or rejection?
- What was the history of your ancestors or relatives before they came to the U.S. if they were not Native American? If Native American, what was their tribal history?
- Do you believe that race should be legally allowed to be a consideration for college acceptance? Why or why not? (see the Prop 209 video in the resource page)
- Why and how were Reyna's stories important to her?
- Describe a time when you rebelled against your parents? What happened and how do you feel about it now?
- Describe a time when you helped a sibling or friend of yours who was in trouble?
- Describe a time when your parent or parents left you? Why did it happen and how did you feel?
- Why did Reyna's mother, Juana, leave her kids in Mexico and what happened when she came back? How do you feel about her decisions? Do you feel differently about her father's decisions to leave, and if so, why?
- Describe your hometown in as much detail as you can. Use at least three of the senses (i.e. sight, sound, and smell).
- What are the poorest living conditions you've seen or experienced?
1. What's the difference between immigration and emigration? Look it up.
2. What are the similarities and differences between Reyna and Betty?
- Describe a time when you expressed anger toward a relative or parent? How do you feel about it now?
- Describe something you learned about a relative that surprised you and changed the way you thought about them.
- How did Abuela Evila treat her grandchildren? Provide examples.
- What happened to Abuela Evila when she was young? Does that change your view of her? Why or why not?
- What are your religious beliefs and how have they changed over time?
- Describe a time when you prayed for something? Was your prayer answered?
- What is Reyna's prayer?
- What connection does Reyna draw between religion and poverty?
- Describe a time when you helped someone at a sacrifice to yourself?
- Describe a time when someone sacrificed to help you?
- How does Reyna react to the teacher's comments on her stories and why?
- Do you trust Reyna's perceptions of the parents? Why or why not?
- Describe a time when you had to make a difficult decision that you knew would hurt someone else's feelings.
1. Who are Las Girlfriends and how are they important to Reyna?
2. Why does Reyna say she is no better than her parents? Do you agree?
- What aspects of your family, history, or culture bring you shame?
- In what ways does your language reflect your background, class, or culture?
- Do you believe in palm readings or astrology?
- Describe an accomplishment and why it made you proud.
- What did Marta mean when she said "You are more"? In what ways are you more than what people think?
- Find a simile in this chapter and describe what it adds to the comparison it is making.
- Describe a time when you have done work with your hands to build, make, or work on something?
- Describe a person that reminds you of a parent? Did that make you more or less interested in them? How did it affect the relationship?
- How has your view of your parents changed as you've gotten older?
1. Why does Reyna's view of her father change?
2. How does this chapter and Reyna's decision at the end in it relate to the title of this book?
- Describe a regret you have in your life. What would it take for you to no longer see it as a regret?
- In what ways might being a teen mother be positive and/or negative?
- How do Reyna's feelings about Betty change in this chapter and why?
- What art or activity makes you happy and/or feel connected to your culture?
1. How does dance affect Reyna's sense of self and community?
- Describe someone you know who lives differently than you do and has different values than you do. What are those differences and how does it affect your relationship.
1. How are Reyna and Arturo different in their views about the U.S. and education? Do you feel one view is more correct? Why?
2. How is Reyna "trying to rescue people" in this chapter?
3. Describe a time when you've tried to help someone who didn't want your help.
- What books have you read that reflected your own personal experience?
- What author(s) have you seen or met?
- What books have made an impact on you?
- What advice has been most useful to you and how? Who gave it to you and why?
1. If you were to write your own book that "you couldn't find" but that you'd like to read, what would it be about?
- Describe a teacher who made a difference in your life.
- Describe an award or recognition you've received.
1. What did she read at graduation? Do you think she should have read it?
Book Two: The Home I Carry
1. Predict what this book section will be about based on the title and how it might be different from the earlier section.
- Describe a time you or someone you know had your heart broken. How did you or this other person heal?
- Historically, how do men treat women in your culture? Is there a culture of violence in male role models?
1. What happened with Eddie and where did she go afterwards?
2. What is Abuelito's story about Eliseo?
3. Why does Reyna say she hates her culture?
- How will your educational goals help you earn a living? What skills will be valuable?
- What jobs have you had? Which one was your favorite and why? Which one was your least favorite and why?
1. What job does Reyna take and how does it change her perspective on how she treated others?
2. How does writing help her?
1. What was your middle school like? How were the kids, the teachers, and the resources?
2. Describe a time when a teacher humiliated you. How did you react?
1. What kind of teacher training did Reyna get?
2. What was Reyna's experience in the classroom? What do you think she could have done to make it better?
- What is it like to live on your own or how do you imagine it will be?
- Describe a time you were in a bad relationship.
- What happens at Reyna's birthday dinner and why?
- Why did Reyna stay with Francisco?
- What are your feelings or experiences regarding abortion and why?
1. What do you feel about Reyna's choice about her pregnancy? What do you feel about the way she describes her reasons for her choice?
1. What are the best and worst homes you've had? If you've had just one, what are its best and worst qualities?
2. What do you know about the citizenship test? Do you know anyone who has taken it? (See resources)
- How did Reyna get to be a homeowner and what was the home like?
- What is your relationship like with your father and why?
- What does Kahlil Gibran's first poem mean and how can you apply it to your own life?
- What does her father mean by "Maybe now, you'll understand" (Grande 201).
- What is "...the paradox of [the] immigrant experience" (Grande 201) that Reyna describes?
1. What and/or who is to blame for failing public schools?
1. What do you think about Reyna's decision to go back to school? What is its connection to The Giving Tree. (See resources)
- Describe a time you took a chance to get something you wanted.
- How would you describe your voice, the identity that comes out when you write or speak?
- How did Maria Amparo help Reyna?
- What is a family secret you learned about when you got older?
- Describe a time when you or someone you know was injured and didn't take proper care?
- What is a pattern that is passed down in your family?
- What secret was revealed about Juana, Reyna's mother? What did it make you think or feel to know this information?
- What does Reyna worry about regarding her own motherhood?
- Describe a time when you lost someone you loved. How did it affect you and your family.
- What is your belief about the afterlife and why do you have that belief?
- How does Reyna fulfill her promis e to Abuelita Chinta?
1. Describe a time when you had to do public speaking? How did you feel and how did it go?
1. What was one thing Reyna learned in the Emerging Voices program?
2. How did Reyna's novel change with Maria's guidance?
1. What are the aspects of you that you show people and the aspects of you that people don't see?
1. What are the two sides to being an undocumented immigrant in the U.S.?
2. Using the magic "What if?" what question would you ask to turn into a story?
1. How do you balance taking care of other's needs in your life and taking care of your own needs?
1. How are Cory and Reyna similar and different?
2. What are examples of what Reyna calls the "writer's language" (or the elements of fiction)?
1. Describe a time when you wanted something you couldn't have or to be with someone you couldn't be with. What happened?
2. Is it wrong for someone to flirt with someone else they like who already has a partner? Why or why not?
1. Was Reyna like Malinche?
1. Describe something you've done to impress someone you've liked.
2. What are your favorite games to play and what memories do you have of playing them?
- What does Reyna mean when she writes, "I think I'm in trouble" (262).
- Do you agree with Reyna's point that it was Cory's girlfriend's fault if she lost him (263)?
- What are your favorite family recipes or meals? What memories do you have of them?
- What do you think about hitting one's child as punishment (corporal punishment)? What message does it send the child about power and violence? How does it affect the parent-child relationship in the future?
- What is the mole story?
- What happens between Cory and his girlfriend and why?
- Describe a bad monetary decision you've made and how it affected your life. If you can't think of one for yourself, describe one that someone else you know made.
1. What does Reyna learn about her father's past when he moves in with her?
- Describe a time when you did not compromise your values but lost something because of it. What happened and how did it make you feel?
- What happened with each of the two book publication offers? How were they different?
- What is the most unusual meal you have ever eaten and how was it?
1. What does Reyna's uncle say about Cory and how does she respond? Why is her response significant in her development?
1. Describe a time you've acted out of anger that you regretted later.
1. How does Reyna humiliate her mother?
2. What is Reyna's point about her mother hitting her dog?
1. What are your feelings and/or experiences with divorce? Can it be a good thing? Explain.
1. How do you feel about Mago's and Juana's choices and why?
1. Describe someone other than your parents who have been like parents to you.
2. How have your own struggles provided benefits to you in your own life?
1. How does Cory's family treat Reyna? What are some examples?
2. Are there disadvantages to growing up as Cory did?
- Describe a time when someone told you they were proud of you. How did it make you feel?
- What would you tell your parents that you haven't told them if they wanted to listen without judgement?
- What does Reyna mean when she says "I had finally build a home that I could carry" (316)?
- How did the reading remind Reyna of being a student? How has it brought her back full circle?
- How did Cory propose to Reyna?
1. Why would a book have an epilogue instead of a final chapter? What is it saying to the reader about the information in this section?
2. Name three ways that writing is important for Reyna.
- Compare and contrast your own experiences with Reyna's. What are significant similarities and/or differences in your journeys and how are those similarities and differences important? You may choose a single topic or theme or multiple topics.
- Chose a theme in the memoir and provide five examples of how that theme is developed throughout the book? What is the overall message the book communicates about that theme?
- How does Ms. Grande use description, simile, and metaphor to explore and deepen themes in the book. Provide at least five examples.
- What cycles of repeated behavior or patterns show up in the book? What are the causes of the patterns and how are those patterns disrupted?
- Write a family history using primary sources.
- What does the book tell us about the immigrant experience? What are three important messages and how are they developed within the book?
- How is the topic of "dreams" developed in multiple ways throughout the book? What are Ms. Grande's dreams, how do they change over the course of the book, and how are they interwoven with other people's dreams?
- How does Ms. Grande explore the themes of abuse and forgiveness over the course of the book?
- What are the different messages in the memoir about the power of writing?
Research Essay Ideas
- How have U.S. immigration laws changed over time and for what reasons? Have they been fair and just? What changes, if any, should be made?
- What kind of treatment are immigrants and refugees receiving at the southern U.S. boarder. What changes, if any, should be made?
- What are the lives of undocumented immigrants like in the U.S.? How are they contributing to our communities? Are they a threat economically or criminally?
- What is DOCA? How many people are affected by it? How is the law changing? What is the present status? What do you think should be done and why?
Literary Arts Festival Assignments
- Write a letter to Ms. Grande expressing your feelings about the memoir and asking her one question.
- Attend the Literary Arts Festival on May 9, 2020. Listen to the keynote address and attend at least one workshop or panel. In one page, report on your activities and how they informed your perspective on the memoir and/or writing.
- Get a personalized autograph from the author and tell her your feelings about her memoir when you meet her.
- Begin your own memoir and attend the writing workshops. Describe how the workshops informed your own writing.
General and Chapter Specific Resources for A Dream Called Home, by Reyna Grande
This page is indefinitely under construction.
Feel free to add links to pages of curriculum that you create!
- A Curriculum Buffet for A Dream Called Home (Essay Questions, Reading Questions, and Activities)
- LPC Dreamers Homepage: Campus Resources for Undocumented Students and Their Allies
- Article about Reyna Grande and a Dream Called Home from LatinoNews.com
- Reading Group Topics and Questions from the Publisher
- Reyna Grande's Official Home Page for A Dream Called Home
- Living Undocumented is a great series on Netflix
- I recommend showing the film El Norte. This is an intense film about coming to the US from Guatemala. (Trigger warning.) Reyna's family is from Mexico, and there is the danger of reinforcing the stereotype that all people from Latin America are from Mexico. However, the film really brings to life the difficulties of this struggle. I will inquire about availability in the library.
- LPC Literary Arts Festival Module
Chapter Specific Resources:
- Chapter 1UC Santa Cruz Promotional Video
UC Campus Tour Video--Skip the first 25 seconds
- Kresge College
- What is a "green card"? Old Type of Green Card (like the first one Reyna got)
- Newer Green Card
- Chapter 3
- Article about Homelessness in Santa Cruz
- Chapter 4:
- Voltaire and Candide Summary Video with John Green
- Candide, by Voltaire, free ebook
- Chapter 5:
- CA Proposition 209 Video Summary
- Sandra Cisneros Bio and Info
- Chapter 6-7
- Reyna's Trip to Iguala with Pictures!
- Iguala, Mexico -- Map, Drone Video, and Images
- Short Video about the Missing Students from Iguala
- Video: (21 Min) The Mexican War of Independence and Colonial History of "New Spain"
- Short Video about The Mexican War of Independence
- Video: Pilgrimage to Virgin of Guadalupe in Mexico City
- Author Juan Rulfo
- Author Tomas Rivera (from the Tomas Rivera Center)
- Chapter 11
- Map of Santa Cruz
- Las Girlfriends Literary Journal
- Chapter 12
- Interview with Luis Valdez of Teatro Campesino
- Maria Elena Valesco as "La India Maria"
- Chapter 17:
- Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston Interview
- Farewell to Manzanar Materials
- Chapter 23
- The Teacher Next Door Program
- Watts Riots -- 1965
- Rodney King Riots -- 1992, NPR Looks Back
- Chapter 24
- Citizenship Test Sample with Answers
- Chapter 26
- The Giving Tree Slide Show of the Book
- Chapter 27
- Maria Amparo Escandon ( UCLA Extension)
- Emerging Voices Fellowship - PEN
- Chapter 28
- Additional Chapter Resources:
- Publishers Weekly Review of Across A Hundred Mountains