Reyna Grande: Love amid the atrocity of the Mexican-American War
Reyna Grande’s new novel, 'A Ballad of Love and Glory,' explores love and loyalty during the Mexican-American War.
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When it comes to writing, California author Reyna Grande always has Mexico, the country of her family, in her mind. This time, she wanted to write a novel about the war the U.S. can't remember and Mexico can't forget: the Mexican-American War.
The result is A Ballad of Love and Glory, a novel that tells the story of the San Patricios, a battalion of Irish soldiers who fought for Mexico during the Mexican-American War, which ended in 1848.
The year is 1846. After the controversial annexation of Texas, the U.S. Army marches south to provoke war with Mexico over the disputed Río Grande boundary.
Ximena Salomé is a gifted Mexican healer who dreams of building a family with the man she loves on the coveted land she calls home. But when Texas Rangers storm her ranch and shoot her husband dead, her dreams are burned to ashes. Vowing to honor her husband’s memory and defend her country, Ximena uses her healing skills as an army nurse on the frontlines of the ravaging war.
Meanwhile, John Riley, an Irish immigrant in the Yankee army desperate to help his family escape the famine devastating his homeland, is sickened by the unjust war and the unspeakable atrocities committed against his countrymen by nativist officers. In a bold act of defiance, he swims across the Río Grande and joins the Mexican Army —a desertion punishable by execution. He forms the St. Patrick’s Battalion, a band of Irish soldiers willing to fight to the death for México’s freedom.
When Ximena and John meet, a dangerous attraction blooms between them. As the war intensifies, so does their passion. Swept up by forces with the power to change history, they fight not only for the fate of a nation, but for their future together.
Heartbreaking and lyrical, Grande’s spellbinding saga, inspired by true events and historical figures, brings these two unforgettable characters to life and illuminates a largely forgotten moment in history that impacts the U.S.-México border to this day.
“I wrote A Ballad of Love and Glory to learn more about this war — or invasion, as it is called in Mexico — a conflict that led to my native country losing half its territory,” she writes.
“The research I undertook helped me better understand the U.S.-Mexican border,” she told the Los Angeles Times.
The novel weaves in the era’s historical figures as well, such as a U.S. Army officer and future president, Zachary Taylor, and Mexican army officer and statesman Antonio López de Santa Anna.
“It’s a great story and a revealing look at a lesser-sung chapter of American history,” as reported by Publishers Weekly.
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.
After attending Pasadena City College for two years, Reyna became the first person in her family to set foot in a university. She went on to obtain 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.
Her previous books include the memoirs, The Distance Between Us, a bestselling 2012 memoir about her own childhood torn between Mexico and California, and A Dream Called Home and the novels, Across a Hundred Mountains and Dancing with Butterflies.