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A coming-of-age memoir by a Colombian-Cuban woman about shaping lessons from home into a new, queer life   In this lyrical, coming-of-age memoir, Daisy Hernández chronicles what the women in her Cuban-Colombian family taught her about love, money, and race. Her mother warns her about envidia and men who seduce you with pastries, while one tía bemoans that her niece is turni A coming-of-age memoir by a Colombian-Cuban woman about shaping lessons from home into a new, queer life   In this lyrical, coming-of-age memoir, Daisy Hernández chronicles what the women in her Cuban-Colombian family taught her about love, money, and race. Her mother warns her about envidia and men who seduce you with pastries, while one tía bemoans that her niece is turning out to be “una india” instead of an American. Another auntie instructs that when two people are close, they are bound to become like uña y mugre, fingernails and dirt, and that no, Daisy’s father is not godless. He’s simply praying to a candy dish that can be traced back to Africa.  These lessons—rooted in women’s experiences of migration, colonization, y cariño—define in evocative detail what it means to grow up female in an immigrant home. In one story, Daisy sets out to defy the dictates of race and class that preoccupy her mother and tías, but dating women and transmen, and coming to identify as bisexual, leads her to unexpected questions. In another piece, NAFTA shuts local factories in her hometown on the outskirts of New York City, and she begins translating unemployment forms for her parents, moving between English and Spanish, as well as private and collective fears. In prose that is both memoir and commentary, Daisy reflects on reporting for the New York Times as the paper is rocked by the biggest plagiarism scandal in its history and plunged into debates about the role of race in the newsroom. A heartfelt exploration of family, identity, and language, A Cup of Water Under My Bed is ultimately a daughter’s story of finding herself and her community, and of creating a new, queer life.


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A coming-of-age memoir by a Colombian-Cuban woman about shaping lessons from home into a new, queer life   In this lyrical, coming-of-age memoir, Daisy Hernández chronicles what the women in her Cuban-Colombian family taught her about love, money, and race. Her mother warns her about envidia and men who seduce you with pastries, while one tía bemoans that her niece is turni A coming-of-age memoir by a Colombian-Cuban woman about shaping lessons from home into a new, queer life   In this lyrical, coming-of-age memoir, Daisy Hernández chronicles what the women in her Cuban-Colombian family taught her about love, money, and race. Her mother warns her about envidia and men who seduce you with pastries, while one tía bemoans that her niece is turning out to be “una india” instead of an American. Another auntie instructs that when two people are close, they are bound to become like uña y mugre, fingernails and dirt, and that no, Daisy’s father is not godless. He’s simply praying to a candy dish that can be traced back to Africa.  These lessons—rooted in women’s experiences of migration, colonization, y cariño—define in evocative detail what it means to grow up female in an immigrant home. In one story, Daisy sets out to defy the dictates of race and class that preoccupy her mother and tías, but dating women and transmen, and coming to identify as bisexual, leads her to unexpected questions. In another piece, NAFTA shuts local factories in her hometown on the outskirts of New York City, and she begins translating unemployment forms for her parents, moving between English and Spanish, as well as private and collective fears. In prose that is both memoir and commentary, Daisy reflects on reporting for the New York Times as the paper is rocked by the biggest plagiarism scandal in its history and plunged into debates about the role of race in the newsroom. A heartfelt exploration of family, identity, and language, A Cup of Water Under My Bed is ultimately a daughter’s story of finding herself and her community, and of creating a new, queer life.

30 review for A Cup of Water Under My Bed: A Memoir

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jessica

    I always was (and remain) deeply envious of kids who grew up bilingual, who had parents at home who spoke something more interesting than English. Those kids always seemed so lucky, getting two languages -- and two cultures! -- for the price of one. A Cup of Water Under My Bed is about that experience -- of being bilingual, and bicultural -- and about the complexity of what's anything but a simple two-for-one deal. Growing up in Union City, NJ in a working-class Colombian and Cuban family, Daisy I always was (and remain) deeply envious of kids who grew up bilingual, who had parents at home who spoke something more interesting than English. Those kids always seemed so lucky, getting two languages -- and two cultures! -- for the price of one. A Cup of Water Under My Bed is about that experience -- of being bilingual, and bicultural -- and about the complexity of what's anything but a simple two-for-one deal. Growing up in Union City, NJ in a working-class Colombian and Cuban family, Daisy learns English in kindergarten at the expense of the Spanish her parents exclusively speak. She writes movingly of serving as translator between her parents and the English-speaking world, and of the pressure she felt as the high-performing child of immigrants who expected her to "make it" in America. In my favorite passage she recalls her community's pride in her and their conviction that she'd succeed as a writer, then concludes: No one ever says where I am going, but they are sure that a place is waiting for me. By the time I am nine years old and translating my report card for my father, I know he is not going with me. For Daisy, becoming an English speaker -- and going on to college, white-collar work, graduate degrees, and dating women -- meant to some extent abandoning her family, even as she remained so close that she lived with them until she was twenty-seven. Her book is characterized by a twinned sense of dislocation and alienation: while Hernández lovingly describes and identifies with aspects of her family's home and culture, her English, education, and sexuality have removed her in many ways from them. At the same time, in the richer, whiter, English-speaking world -- epitomized by her internship at the New York Times -- she remains set apart by her own identity and history. In some respects, Daisy does reap the glorious code-switching fruits of my best-of-both-worlds fantasy; yet she conveys a painful sense of statelessness and loss. Despite a real sadness, this memoir is an optimistic story that suggests a more complex and expansive American dream than the familiar one Daisy's parents expected for her. Rejecting conspicuous consumption as a sign of success after her spiral into credit card debt, she also rejects the expectation that she become "one of those people who say they are of Hispanic heritage, who say they grew up in difficult circumstances, who see the assimilation of one person as the progress of a community." Throughout the book, Daisy recognizes and creates spaces where she does fully belong and can clearly express and value herself, usually through identification with the struggles of other people. Instead of trying to "keep up with the Joneses," she decides to use writing as a means towards social justice, repeatedly tying her story to those of her neighbors, literal and metaphoric. There are few stories more classically American than the one about the child of immigrants, and Hernández revisits that timeless theme while representing the moment we're in and imagining where we could go in the future. In the end, A Cup of Water is more than a memoir of one woman's interesting but largely unremarkable life. Rather, it's a quiet but convincing call to imagine a different kind of American dream: one that is not about the "me" but about the "us."

  2. 4 out of 5

    CaseyTheCanadianLesbrarian

    2014: what a year for bisexual memoirs by people of colour! Among the fabulous Lambda award nominees fitting this category—including Fire Shut Up in My by Charles M. Blow, which I also highly recommend—is A Cup of Water Under My Bed by Daisy Hernández. Don’t both of those have amazing, intriguing titles? I simply loved Hernández’s book, on so many levels, for both its form and content. It’s a memoir, but, interestingly, not structured linearly. Instead, Hernández arranges the material of her life 2014: what a year for bisexual memoirs by people of colour! Among the fabulous Lambda award nominees fitting this category—including Fire Shut Up in My by Charles M. Blow, which I also highly recommend—is A Cup of Water Under My Bed by Daisy Hernández. Don’t both of those have amazing, intriguing titles? I simply loved Hernández’s book, on so many levels, for both its form and content. It’s a memoir, but, interestingly, not structured linearly. Instead, Hernández arranges the material of her life in three thematic sections, divided into chapters that are self-contained essays. This structure allows you to see different facets of her life as they exist at different stages of her life, making links between events in childhood and adulthood that you might not otherwise. Although it feels a bit jarring to move ahead and back again at first, after a while I really enjoyed the way she organized the memoir; it felt tangential in the same way that a conversation does. One result of the organization, interestingly, is that you don’t actually hear anything about Hernández’s queerness until the second section, although the jacket refreshingly makes her bisexuality explicit. That shouldn’t be notable, but unfortunately it is, and I was super pumped to see the ‘b’ word right there on the inside flap of the cover. One other thing that is unique about this book’s format is that the entire thing is peppered with Spanish, always in italics, now and then whole sentences, often just a single word. Like, there isn’t a page of the book that doesn’t have at least one Spanish word on it. Sometimes you can guess the meaning of the word from the context, or a translation or paraphrase is fitted seamlessly into the text. Other times, though, Hernández just lets the Spanish word sit in the English sentence, sin explanation. Given that she devotes a lot of the memoir to discussing the role of language in her family and her sense of self, I found her decision to include a fair amount of Spanish in a predominantly English book fascinating. This insistence on her mother tongue seemed to me a distinctly feminist Latina strategy, and a really cool way to illustrate the powerful and sometimes alienating effect language can have. Anglophones aren’t used to having their easy understanding thwarted, and I thought the Spanish in A Cup of Water was a thoughtful way to draw attention to that privilege. Also, if you’re learning español like I am, it’s really cool and helpful. So what does Hernández write about? In a nutshell: everything. The first section is devoted to her family and cultural/spiritual background. Growing up in New Jersey with a working class Colombian mother and Cuban father and a smattering of aunties constantly coming and going certainly gives her a lot to discuss. Some of my favourite parts were about the intrusion of English in her life as her parents send her to English Catholic elementary school, despite her growing up speaking Spanish at home. Having only ever heard English in cartoons on TV, she describes her first day of school like this: Sitting in my classroom, I wait for Mrs. Reynolds to start talking like my mother. In Spanish. Surely it won’t be long now. An hour passes. Two hours. An entire day it feels, and still it is all Mighty Mouse… It’s like being forced to watch the same cartoon all day long. Later she realizes devastating effect of this linguistic erasure: I am not to go the way of the two people I long for in the thick terror of the night. The first man I love and the first woman I adore, my father and my mother with their Spanish words, are not in these cards. The road before me is English and the next part is too awful to ask aloud or even silently: What is so wrong with my parents that I am not to mimic their hands, their needs, not even their words? There’s a stark honesty in Hernández’s writing, which is especially striking when she’s talking about the complicated stuff of life, like discovering and naming her bisexuality in the second section: There isn’t a good verb for what begins happening to me in college. Yes, I am meeting lesbians, but I am not one of them. I still find men attractive; it is that I am thinking of women in a new way. It is as if I am learning that I can shift my weight from one leg to the other, that I have a second leg. Kissing women is like discovering a new limb. Hernández also addresses racism in all its ugly complexity: for example, her Latin American family’s use of the word india (meaning an Indigenous person) as a threat when she’s misbehaving as a child, their fixation on light skin, prejudice against Black Americans, and the slipperiness of racial categories. Like how her aunt’s dark-skinned Peruvian husband isn’t “indio” because he drives a nice car and has a good job. How the white Southern editor at the New York Times where Hernández is working admits to giving a young African American journalist who turned out to be plagiarizing one chance too many. How her aunt said she was so dark as a child, “as if the colour of [her] skin had been an illness.” One unexpected thing Hernández writes about in a startlingly candid way in the last section is money, as well as the related topic of class. An especially poignant story called “Only Ricos Have Credit” (ricos means rich people) examines her relationship with credit cards, chasing the kind of white middle class lifestyle she dreams of but can’t actually afford. In “My Father’s Hands,” she writes powerfully about the economic impact of NAFTA, her father beginning a job as a janitor at age 63 after doing factory work his entire life and her mother continuing to work, but sometimes without a paycheque at all, at her factory. I’m pretty sure I’d have a hard time wrapping up such a gorgeous, far-reaching book, but Hernández does it eloquently in a short, final story in which a new chapter of her life on the west coast is beginning. No mistaking it, she is a talented queer writer whose first book is, I think, only the dawn of the rosy career to come. Don’t miss A Cup of Water Under My Bed.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Tope

    Found a lot to relate to in this lyrical and poignant collection of stories by Daisy Hernandez. Hernandez weaves multiple narrative strands together: stories of her parents' and their siblings emigration from Colombia and Cuba; of the ravages of colonialism on language, culture, and community; of compromise, negotiation, and syncretism between the faith and culture of the colonizers and the beliefs and traditions slaves brought with them to the Americas and transformed (often by necessity); of b Found a lot to relate to in this lyrical and poignant collection of stories by Daisy Hernandez. Hernandez weaves multiple narrative strands together: stories of her parents' and their siblings emigration from Colombia and Cuba; of the ravages of colonialism on language, culture, and community; of compromise, negotiation, and syncretism between the faith and culture of the colonizers and the beliefs and traditions slaves brought with them to the Americas and transformed (often by necessity); of being caught between Spanish and English, between her native cultures and "American" culture, between ethnic pride and shame and pressure to assimilate to mainstream American culture; of loving a family and a culture that do not always love queer women like her back, or unconditionally; and tying all these together, of the importance of telling her and her family's stories on her own terms and in her own words. The only weakness is occasionally florid prose; otherwise, a moving and contemplative read.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Tracy

    There are so many things I want to say about this book, but much of it is too close to my heart to attempt to express. Daisy Hernandez has written something I wish I'd had about 20 years ago. She looks honestly at the many aspects of her life that have influenced who she is, and who she wants to be. I wish we had more narratives like this complex one. Although the quote below will not encompass the whole of the book in any way, I particularly loved this passage (even if I identify more with bell There are so many things I want to say about this book, but much of it is too close to my heart to attempt to express. Daisy Hernandez has written something I wish I'd had about 20 years ago. She looks honestly at the many aspects of her life that have influenced who she is, and who she wants to be. I wish we had more narratives like this complex one. Although the quote below will not encompass the whole of the book in any way, I particularly loved this passage (even if I identify more with bell hooks than the author): "I wish I could be like bell hooks. She has written that because she was never accepted in white or black middle-class circles as a young woman, she didn't try to belong. She didn't try to dress like she had money she didn't have; she didn't enjoy the illusion that material goods would make her feel better. She found that she liked to live simply, and she hated the hedonistic consumer culture that is American life. I wish I could be like that, but I'm not." She then deftly describes the inner conflict that many social justice advocates can related to: the idea of who we think we're supposed to be, who we actual are, and how we deal with the disparities between the two (usually by being way too hard on ourselves). I love her honesty and vulnerability and strength.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Danielle Mootz

    I feel blessed to read a novel that compells me to set it down, take a deep breath and just absorb the profound way it has hit to the core of ME, and my experiences but this memoir made me do this half a dozen times. Beautiful writing. Amazing truth. I too refuse be undone.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Audrey Laurey

    A great memoir of Daisy Hernández growing up as a first generation Cuban immigrant in America. An effortlessly enjoyable read where you can feel and see the Santeria mysticism, hear the language, and smell the food. I loved the family dynamic, and the way Daisy writes about her experiences, told in concurrent stories and essays.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Kathleen Harold

    Beautifully written memoir. I wish everyone would read it to expand their heart and understanding just a bit.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Monica

    In lieu of an articulate review of this amazing memoir, here is part of a very long, crappy, semi-autobiographical poem I wrote about it when I was an undergrad. Belt freezes tag, roasts bones. Loves girl flesh best. His banquets are epic When propelled by men Who ain’t ya damn daddy! Lithe ,sleek, he nips at knees, feet, calves, shoulder blades. Bites the deepest where people don’t see. Gorges, slurps, licks his plate clean. Making studies of tiles and toes, I Shamble from one moment, one room, one ni In lieu of an articulate review of this amazing memoir, here is part of a very long, crappy, semi-autobiographical poem I wrote about it when I was an undergrad. Belt freezes tag, roasts bones. Loves girl flesh best. His banquets are epic When propelled by men Who ain’t ya damn daddy! Lithe ,sleek, he nips at knees, feet, calves, shoulder blades. Bites the deepest where people don’t see. Gorges, slurps, licks his plate clean. Making studies of tiles and toes, I Shamble from one moment, one room, one night to the next, Grow up and up and up To read of a girl like me, who learned the hard way, her world had sharp edges. Little Daisy, small and brown, Legs a playground for Belt’s bites, Whose real father turned into a crow, Peers up at me from the pages of her memoir, apple cheeks blazing bright under a deluge of rage and pain. I take her little hand, Pull her up and up and up. Out comes a woman Anger dwarfing mine. Perching crossways on my bed, We pull up our shorts, Compare and contrast, Our bloodstained tables. Tucking hers underneath, she speaks to me. The cuts on my legs are still open. ” At least Mine are scabs” Lazing on my porch, Dregs of Russia’s best drying in a beveled pitcher, I am assailed By that dusty old lividity. Depictions of Merdstone, supine, ruddy, Congregations of Red Stripe and spent spliffs supplicating, their Bodies bent toward his leonine frame. Barbies out windows, Helpless on lawns. Guess I couldn’t eat fast enough. Another plunders me, Siphons my lungs, Drops me where I lean. Pulled from the hiding place Under the sink, Beaten with a backscratcher For hiding. Tremors rack my grownup’s body, Send my punch-drunk psyche sprawling. I dissolve Into a pastiche of dark thoughts And darker intentions. My rational world spins, rocks, frays At the edges: Battalions of furious hues encroach, Storming and leveling A fortress of years. Bruise like spectrums prance and recede, ebb and flow, Until all my adulthood is wiped away, decimated. Only the past survives. Crystalline images, repressed moments, Kick holes in walls Of bricks of age, Erected by defiance. More nights, more beatings, more recoveries, Struggle for dominance, Shriek in my belly, Scramble over my heart, Claw the chords loose, Escape through my throat. These recollections and worse ones jump out Swinging, others dance jigs on the edges Of my compromised consciousness. The part of me, no longer a girl, Turns each one to glass. I ransack my unconscious For peroxide bubbles, pink tinged water, crying contusions, involuntary sobs, snatch them out Out OUT! Now daisy’s beside me, doing the same! Grinning like fruitcakes we hear our bells rolling Into pieces on the concrete; We stomped the largest to trillions, More visible than we ever were. The welts on our minds dissipate, Pull us off the man-hater’s jungle gym. We dig our heals in , Push them through the concrete, Halt the swing From strange thighs to random sheets And back again. By inches, we loosen our shoulders As the bitter weeping welts subside. On the porch, we catch our breath, Wrest control of ourselves From days long dead. Daisy straightens, takes my hand, Talks me down. "Forgiveness and faith are like writing a story. They take time, effort, revisions." “My favorite stories end with dead villains. Faith didn’t protect me, Bitch stood back and watched.” “My mother? put his ass UNDER the jail. If she’d known, if she’d seen, if she’d let it go, I could never forgive her.” "She stops talking to my father. My mother..." that is. “She should have taken you and left!” My Russian pacifier looms and lunges, Cuts me off, Wipes the embers right off my coast. Passive mammas, hop drenched daddies, Dim dingy uniforms, smiling deities, embittered girlchildren raking forgivers over coals, rewriters of history sink too, their tabulas raasas capsizing. There went my judgment Of Alicia Hernandez. All are Flailing desperately, clinging to teeth, tip, and buds. All submerged in my highball, Stiffs in tangy sticky sweet Daisy tries again. "She is angry and afraid, not so much of my father perhaps, but of knowing that there is no other place for us to go." I keep my mouth shut because I know God damn well Nothing Chafes Worse Than Reliance On Resentment. We contemplate in silence The power in forgiveness. I wonder how she forgave her father., She wonders when I forgave my mother.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Scarllet ✦ iamlitandwit

    And it is hard, I imagine, for people who have not experienced this to understand the weight of that silence and how the absence of language can feel like a death.There's just something about reading a memoir that reaffirms who you are and where you come from.. Like yes, we are from different places and have different upbringings but there are so many similarities. There are different threads within her beautifully lyrical story that connects to her past and to her present & I thought it was a un And it is hard, I imagine, for people who have not experienced this to understand the weight of that silence and how the absence of language can feel like a death.There's just something about reading a memoir that reaffirms who you are and where you come from.. Like yes, we are from different places and have different upbringings but there are so many similarities. There are different threads within her beautifully lyrical story that connects to her past and to her present & I thought it was a unique way of letting us into her mind as she reflects on her life. I enjoyed so much reading about Daisy and her family, her growing up, her discovering herself. It definitely was like reading about home; it's a familiar kind of hurt where try as you might, words cannot fully explain your deep and profound emotions.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Sarah H

    "Memories are like thread. They can be tugged and loosened and stitched in different directions." I LOVED THIS BOOK! I'm so glad I own it. I bought it on a whim on a Goodreads daily deal and I'm glad I took the chance. Her writing is so lyrical. The way she compares her experiences or thoughts to other things is so beautiful! She jumps back and forth in time but it works really well. I enjoyed hearing about her life growing up and how she saw/sees the world. Her life was very interesting to me, "Memories are like thread. They can be tugged and loosened and stitched in different directions." I LOVED THIS BOOK! I'm so glad I own it. I bought it on a whim on a Goodreads daily deal and I'm glad I took the chance. Her writing is so lyrical. The way she compares her experiences or thoughts to other things is so beautiful! She jumps back and forth in time but it works really well. I enjoyed hearing about her life growing up and how she saw/sees the world. Her life was very interesting to me, she adds a lot of humor but also serious things to consider. This is a fairly short memoir but really awesome writing. Highly recommend!!

  11. 5 out of 5

    Sylwia (Wish Fulfillment)

    More like a 3.9 but I'm rounding up out of respect. Review to come!

  12. 5 out of 5

    Sam Orndorff

    At first I told my friend this is a warrior writer. Her words are potent, fatal, each one is studied and delicately placed in that spot between engaged writer-who-cares and distanced, honest recorder. She succeeds to both ends. This book is a strong case for the feminist as every woman, and very expert in the personal-as-political style. It's a very raw and very matter of fact set of tales that make beautiful truths in the wake of the complicated and disturbing. Every story consists of concrete At first I told my friend this is a warrior writer. Her words are potent, fatal, each one is studied and delicately placed in that spot between engaged writer-who-cares and distanced, honest recorder. She succeeds to both ends. This book is a strong case for the feminist as every woman, and very expert in the personal-as-political style. It's a very raw and very matter of fact set of tales that make beautiful truths in the wake of the complicated and disturbing. Every story consists of concrete allusions, blending intensely flavored human moments with a radical (yet straightforward) social critique. Hernandez perfectly captures the contradictions and conflicted emotions of being involved in a religion. She also describes what good can come of writing, and what good cant'. The book is very grounded, sometimes to a fault. The struggles are so real and so ongoing that by the end I felt almost depressed that these real people were still facing such difficulty. But that's the point, and that's why I love the book. I assume most readers will arrive here, perhaps unfairly so, because it is labled "ethnic fiction." Without extrapolating on the weakness of that genre as it exists, I will say that the book doesn't really have "something for everyone." I think for some, there won't be many directly relatable stories, but that's the key to the book's power- Daisy writes so beautifully and earnestly there is an endless amount of learning to have. It probably will not present much new information to LGBTQ/PoC, but the way she makes her arguments is very compassionate- it's almost impossible to disagree with her stances because she is so open about them and because she has experienced so many obvious forms of oppression. This book will engage, challenge, totally engross your mind and your spirit.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Kelly

    An awesome memoir about growing up a bisexual Colombian-Cuban American. The exploration of navigating borders and borderlands, about making choices that understand/respect and reflect on the past while also allowing for the freedom of newness and challenge, and the insights about people and the lives they live externally and internally are all really great. Even though they were the toughest to read, I thought the chapters about Hernandez's father and his secret life, the depths of who he is, we An awesome memoir about growing up a bisexual Colombian-Cuban American. The exploration of navigating borders and borderlands, about making choices that understand/respect and reflect on the past while also allowing for the freedom of newness and challenge, and the insights about people and the lives they live externally and internally are all really great. Even though they were the toughest to read, I thought the chapters about Hernandez's father and his secret life, the depths of who he is, were the most interesting and offered the most of what Hernandez was trying to do with her story. The chapter about spirituality was especially great.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Karime

    I enjoyed the way Hernandez compared her two cultures and contrasted them against this upper class educated -mostly white culture she begins to work and live around while feeling somewhat as being undercover, thinking deep to herself that she did not belong, that they would find her out as if her family and her had not worked hard enough to earn her place in society. This memoir was so entertaining and insightful about an individual's intersectionalities.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Emilie

    Fluid writing that navigates the space between Spanish and English, queer and straight, woman and man ... the list goes on.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Dedria A.

    One of the very effective ways I have developed for keeping up with working writers is to buy the books of faculty of the writers' conferences I attend and to read the books of the judges of this and that competition. I have found some interesting writers this way. My latest is Daisy Hernandez, a Columbian-Cuba woman. Hernandez was educated in the Catholic schools in her New Jersey neighborhood and everyone knows how technically excellent that mode of schooling can be. Then she went on to become One of the very effective ways I have developed for keeping up with working writers is to buy the books of faculty of the writers' conferences I attend and to read the books of the judges of this and that competition. I have found some interesting writers this way. My latest is Daisy Hernandez, a Columbian-Cuba woman. Hernandez was educated in the Catholic schools in her New Jersey neighborhood and everyone knows how technically excellent that mode of schooling can be. Then she went on to become an intern of the New York Times, which, even though I was a career journalist, I didn't know was how NYT staff writers were hired. Now she is doing something else, that this memoir indicates was a direct outgrowth of the NYT experience, a culture clash. I enjoyed her memoir. Though it was written non-chronological, it was fairly easy to follow in time and space because she was good about giving reader signposts for where the story was.I loved hearing about her life as a seven-year-old English to Spanish, Spanish to English translator for her parents and the authorities whoever they happen to be. One reads about the children who perform that necessary function for adults but this is the first narrative detailing the process. So much of her journalism career parallels my own and we are separated by about 20 years. It goes to show how slowly opportunities came to people of color. I am African American. Hernandez writing style caused me to gasp. Her use of images seems so facile. One can easily see what she is talking about and easily know from the images she uses what the incident she is describing means to her and her family. The images help to convey her story and in only one instance was hit frustrating as she gave an artistic spin to a story. I was so frustrated that I tossed the book down and muttered, "tell the story already." As awesome as her social story is, I cannot help but to think that at least part of the reason this memoir was published was because she is a proclaimed bi-sexaual. Of course, this is outside of the pale for her Columbian tias, under whose influence she had grown up. One tia constantly reminds her that the admission of "dating girls" is killing her mother. It reflects on the state of denial that people of color preferred when it comes to matters of sexuality. True to the optimistic nature of this book, Hernandez is not daunted by reactions and she stays true to herself and keeps on rolling with HER life.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Angela Gyurko

    If you didn't grow up in a bilingual home, you must read this book. If you've never experienced being the only [woman, person of color, immigrant] in the room, you must read this book. Hernandez is simultaneously tender, heartbreaking, and powerful in this structurally interesting memoir of her life as a first generation queer Cuban-Colombian-American who moves from a childhood under the quiet tyranny of her father to the vaunted, yet racist and sexist, staff of the New York Times. "Sitting in t If you didn't grow up in a bilingual home, you must read this book. If you've never experienced being the only [woman, person of color, immigrant] in the room, you must read this book. Hernandez is simultaneously tender, heartbreaking, and powerful in this structurally interesting memoir of her life as a first generation queer Cuban-Colombian-American who moves from a childhood under the quiet tyranny of her father to the vaunted, yet racist and sexist, staff of the New York Times. "Sitting in the classroom, I wait for Miss Reynolds to start talking like my mother. In Spanish. Surely it won't be long now. An hour passes. Two hours." (3) Boom. The first heartbreak. There will be others. Told thematically, not chronologically, Hernandez immerses the reader in her journey and that of her family. The time shifts work beautifully to show how Hernandez came into the particular circumstance or change; each aspect of her life and her habits getting their own section. The chapter on her experience at the New York Times (149-172) made me physically angry, then prompted me to go back through all my experiences, often as the only woman in the room, and try to remember if I treated my team members and employees well enough. Any book that prompts such thoughtfulness should be required reading.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Heidi

    Hernandez weaves words in a unique and effective fashion. She shares a perspective often neglected and offers an honest glimpse into a world many of us never experience. I found myself reading it more for her gift of writing than for the story.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Henriette

    3,5 stars this was really good and also really different in the writing style compared to anything i have ever written. it was episodes of her life growing up and then jumping back and fourth in the timeline which at times could be confusing but then in the end everything makes sense.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Bridget

    Rhythmic Prose Beautifully written, like one long love letter. Really powerful metaphors - pulls you in like she's telling you a secret and you read promising to keep these secrets safe. This is sacred ground and you are a guest. Honor this memoir - be a witness.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Leylamaría Nikfarjam

    “‘If only I knew English. . .’ my mother starts, and then her voice trails because none of us, not her, not even La Tía Chuchi, who knows everything about everyone, knows what would happen if only my mother knew English. I am the one who is supposed to find out. But to make that leap, to be the first in a family to leave for another language hurts. It’s not a broken arm kind of hurt. It’s not abrupt like that. It’s gradual. It is like a parasite, a bug crawling in your stomach that no one else ca “‘If only I knew English. . .’ my mother starts, and then her voice trails because none of us, not her, not even La Tía Chuchi, who knows everything about everyone, knows what would happen if only my mother knew English. I am the one who is supposed to find out. But to make that leap, to be the first in a family to leave for another language hurts. It’s not a broken arm kind of hurt. It’s not abrupt like that. It’s gradual. It is like a parasite, a bug crawling in your stomach that no one else can see but that gives you a fever and makes you nauseous. Because I have to leave Spanish, I have to hate it. That makes the department bearable.” — Absolutely stunning. Daisy Hernández captures a pain that is somehow both intimate as well as present in the bones of every child of immigrant parents who has the ghosts of generations upon generations of a different language and culture weighing down on their shoulders. There’s this sense of union and community even in the parts that highlight the loneliness of existing as an LGBT person of color—because those experiences are, at their core, universal. That, and there’s something so comforting about reading words in both Spanish and English, especially when Hernández details the complicated relationship many immigrant or first-generation Latinx children have with the language in such a poignant way. It’s such a special memoir in how it refuses to make itself palatable or small or more consumable for white people—it’s for US. It goes into detail about the discomfort Hernández feels with white men and how she had to ‘study’ white women for nineteen years in order to simulate conversation with them. It also is critical of our Hispanic elders, of the prejudice in our community, both internalized and externalized, of the difficulty of existing in a class of your own: a child, and then, later, a teenager and an adult, who is not fully American and is not fully Colombian, or Cuban, or Puerto Rican, or Mexican, and so on. How your family constantly highlights the fact that you’re “una Americana” without bothering to correct your Spanish, while white people stumble over your language for fun and think it’s so cool that your background is ‘exotic.’ Again, it’s a loneliness that we feel together. Daisy Hernández infuses her book with it and she does so with care and grace and empathy and the knowledge that she is speaking to people who understand. It’s for us. I’m so grateful for it. I loved every single page. (Sabes, que aunque no había escuchado esa costumbre antes, sobre los vasos de agua debajo de la cama. . . creo que voy a empezar a usarla. Creo que me ayudaría a dormir y a soñar con mas paz.)

  22. 5 out of 5

    Michelle

    The American culture richly combines with Colombian/Latino culture "Spanglish", in this expressive "A Cup of Water Under MY Bed: A Memoir" authored by Daisy Hernandez- (DH). With her mother immigrating from Colombia, DH father left Cuba in 1961, and (1982) settled in Union City, N.Y. where she was raised. Working in the textile manufacturing plants for decades, DH relates the hardship and difficulty of her parents/laborers who had to transition from manufacturing to a service economy, when the pl The American culture richly combines with Colombian/Latino culture "Spanglish", in this expressive "A Cup of Water Under MY Bed: A Memoir" authored by Daisy Hernandez- (DH). With her mother immigrating from Colombia, DH father left Cuba in 1961, and (1982) settled in Union City, N.Y. where she was raised. Working in the textile manufacturing plants for decades, DH relates the hardship and difficulty of her parents/laborers who had to transition from manufacturing to a service economy, when the plants closed. DH writes of the poverty, downplaying her fathers dependence on alcohol, and frustration of her parents to advance to better paying jobs due to inability to speak better English. The stories of the Latino customs, expressions, and superstitions were fascinating! DH grew up influenced and surrounded by her Tia's (aunts): Tia Chuchi, Tia Gorda, Tia Rosa, Tia Dora, played an important part in her upbringing. DH writes of women "gorditas" and "flacas" who operate "botanicas" selling potions, religious candles, and read cards in back rooms. They cleanse rooms of bad energy with cigar smoke and holy water. Tia Rosa would insist a "witch" put a curse on her. A black piece of cloth was found sewn to the underside of a garment, the person a victim of a curse or hex, was having an unusual string of bad luck/unfortunate circumstances. One of her aunts placed a cup of water under the head of her bed to capture the negative energy/bad spirits. These things were of particular importance after DH was hospitalized, seriously injured in a car accident as a teen, the other 6 people escaped with minor injuries. After attending college on a full scholarship DH entered the book publishing industry in the 1990's. After she and her steady boyfriend broke-up, she discovered her love for women, and experienced many lesbian relationships. DH avoids going into any details/names (pseudonyms would have been nice), this part of the story is harder to follow. DH was largely shunned by her aunts for her LGBT orientation. When she entered a relationship with a transgender man, her aunt began talking to her, after several years of estrangement. Being shunned by family is difficult, and perhaps this is the reason many details were omitted, or skimmed over. This was an interesting memoir.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Alex

    " Writing is how I leave my family, and how I take them with me" from "A Cup of Water Under My Bed" by Daisy Hernandez This quote describes how the author, who chooses a career as a writer, diverges away from the traditional ways of her Colombian and Cuban family heritage. She is encouraged however, as the family believes that this talent of writing will lead her to the life that they want for her without the hardships that they've had to encounter. Along the way, as Hernandez comes of age, she b " Writing is how I leave my family, and how I take them with me" from "A Cup of Water Under My Bed" by Daisy Hernandez This quote describes how the author, who chooses a career as a writer, diverges away from the traditional ways of her Colombian and Cuban family heritage. She is encouraged however, as the family believes that this talent of writing will lead her to the life that they want for her without the hardships that they've had to encounter. Along the way, as Hernandez comes of age, she begins to make some untraditional choices in lovers that are unacceptable to her family. I felt that perhaps these portions of the book were the most candid as she explains what it is like to adopt a "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy with your family. Yet, through her writing, she is able to document the traditions and folklore of her family culture and the different aspects of the personalities of her mother, father, and aunts, and also the memories. As a reader, you come to know her family. As a story teller, I think Hernandez is critical without being harsh. Honest, but not brutally. She touches on issues such as racism, immigration, welfare, unemployment, foreign relations, and homophobia just enough for you to get a sense of a certain emotion without delving too deeply.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Sema

    I recieved this book by winning it in a giveaway and i am so ecstatic that i won this specific novel, because of how good it is. If you love sandra cisneros you'll love Daisy Hernandez. Her memoir was so well written and I couldnt put it down. I literally read this in one day. In the novel we follow Daisy's memories of her as a young child in a catholic school to a grown woman who's more interested in her sexuality and her family. I think what made me love this more is that she is from North Jer I recieved this book by winning it in a giveaway and i am so ecstatic that i won this specific novel, because of how good it is. If you love sandra cisneros you'll love Daisy Hernandez. Her memoir was so well written and I couldnt put it down. I literally read this in one day. In the novel we follow Daisy's memories of her as a young child in a catholic school to a grown woman who's more interested in her sexuality and her family. I think what made me love this more is that she is from North Jersey as am I and it felt relateable. It was pretty relateable. As a young female who is considered part of the minority in america, with similar characteristics to the author it was extremely relateable. I would recommend this to anyone who loves a good honest and moving novel.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Rana

    Twelve million estrellas. This is not so much a memoir, starting at a child and running chronologically through somebody's life. Instead, it's a series of stories that illustrate different points about immigration and language and family and race. There's an additional wrinkle that the author identifies as bisexual so there's some fascinating interplay around sexuality and immigration and traditional expectations.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Michelle

    This book was a stretch for me in many ways. At first glance it would seem I would have little in common with an angry, feminist, bisexual child of Colombian and Cuban immigrants. But Hernandez' strong voice drew me in; her way of exploring her memories was irresistible. I'm very glad I read this book.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Beatriz

    I absolutely loved this book. the author writes about navigating the intersectionality between religion, orientation, race. Not only that but it also tells about her experiences working with white folks as a queer, latina. I'm not doing it much justice but seriously read this book.

  28. 5 out of 5

    l.

    One of the best memoirs I have read. Also, she has a cat named Zami and thanks her in the acknowledgements.

  29. 5 out of 5

    mad mags

    The Personal is Political - and Also Poetic in Hernández's Deft Hands (Full disclosure: I received a free copy of this book for review through Library Thing's Early Reviewers program. Trigger warning for child abuse.) Journalism: A fancy word to say that I spent days with my hands in other people's stories, asking and telling, because nothing happens in isolation, especially when it has to do with language. Nothing is more vulnerable than the words in our mouths, because nothing has more power. ### The Personal is Political - and Also Poetic in Hernández's Deft Hands (Full disclosure: I received a free copy of this book for review through Library Thing's Early Reviewers program. Trigger warning for child abuse.) Journalism: A fancy word to say that I spent days with my hands in other people's stories, asking and telling, because nothing happens in isolation, especially when it has to do with language. Nothing is more vulnerable than the words in our mouths, because nothing has more power. ### It will take years to understand that writing makes everything else possible. Writing is how I learn to love my father and where I come from. Writing is how I leave him and also how I take him with me. ### It is a story as old as time, that we always find what we needed was right at home. But, therein is the riddle: a child has to leave to return. My mother had to. She says it often. She only appreciated her mother, only understood her mother, after she had left home. I had to leave, too. It was me, not my mother, who needed English, who needed the stories and feminist theories. Without them, I might never have come back to her. ### Daisy Hernández is the coeditor of Colonize This! Young Women of Color on Today's Feminism, and a former editor of ColorLines magazine. A queer (she identifies as bisexual), second-generation Latina (her mother and father immigrated from Colombia and Cuba, respectively), she speaks and writes about feminism, race, and the media. Her memoir, A Cup of Water Under My Bed, began way way in 2000, when she was hired to pen a regular column in Ms. Magazine at the tender age of twenty-five. A Cup of Water Under My Bed features eleven essays (which often have the feel of stories, so lyrical is Hernández's writing) organized not by chronology, but loosely by topic: assimilation and language; sexual identity; and work and money. Whether she's calling out the state of New Jersey for its switch to an automated telephone system to manage unemployment benefits in the '90s (ostensibly for the convenience of its recipients, but really to hide the scope of the problems created by NAFTA), or writing about her aunties' reactions to her romantic partners (rarely favorable, save for Alejandro - the trans man they all assumed was cisgender, on account of he was built like a linebacker), Hernández writes deftly and with both insight and wry humor. Normally I save the chapter-by-chapter summaries for collections of short stories - where each piece is an island of sorts, self-contained - but here it seems appropriate, almost inexplicably so. While the threads of each story bleed into the others, forming a whole that's even greater than the sum of its parts, each is lovely and stands defiantly on its own. ONE "Before Love, Memory" - Hernández writes of her early love/hate relationship with language; how mastering English proved both a source of pride for and alienation from her family. Becoming fluent in English - and eventually earning a living with her words - was both a culmination of her parents' dreams for her, and a rejection of them: "You betray your parents if you don't become like them [...] and you betray them if you do." Words are power, in more ways than one. "Stories She Tells Us" - As a child, Alicia told her daughters Daisy and Liliana stories: Tales of leaving her small village Ramiriquí for factory work in Bogotá, and later following a friend to New Jersey, where money supposedly grew on trees. As in Colombia, life in the U.S. involved labor in textile factories; grueling, tedious, uncertain - and sometimes unpaid. These were not tales of adventure, but woe; stories populated by monsters and best spun in the dark of night. "The Candy Dish" - While Hernández attended Catholic school and the family went to church every Sunday, her father Ygnacio never accompanied them. Only years later, after experiencing her own break with Catholicism, would Hernández understand why: her father practices Santeria, and the little "candy dish" that she'd raided as a child was actually a sacred clay pot. Hernández skillfully shows how her parents' differing approaches to religion are actually two sides of the same coin: her mother's saints and her father's orishas, the public and the private that developed as a response to slavery, as a means for enslaved people to survive and retain their culture. "A Cup of Water Under My Bed" - Wondering why her family and acquaintances were willing to hand their fates over to spiritualists and taro card readers (Hernández even consulted one after her move to San Francisco, to soothe her homesick heart), Hernández concludes that "they teach us to make the cage tolerable." Remembering a time in her childhood when her father beat her so badly with a belt that it left cuts all over her legs and brought police officers to their door, she recalls Juana, Ygnacio's santera, who arrived later and admonished the five-year-old for upsetting her father. The women her mother chooses are so very different from the women her father chooses. TWO "Even If I Kiss a Woman" - As a teenager, Hernández dated and eventually moved in with Julio, a coworker at McDonald's - and a Colombian, much to her mother's and aunts' horror; they all hope she'll end up with an (white) American. It isn't until college that she even considers that kissing another woman might be a viable option. When she finally comes out as bisexual to her family, the initial shock and disgust gradually gives way to a policy of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" at home, thus creating more barriers between Hernández and her kin. For someone to whom language is paramount, Hernández writes, "the absence of language can feel like death," especially when it comes to sharing with "the first women I loved." "Queer Narratives" - Hernández begins with an anecdote about her experience teaching high school kids about the LGBTQ community - and the enormous pressure to get it right, since anything less could have dire consequences. Such as the murder of Gwen Amber Rose Araujo, a trans woman who was killed by four men, two of whom she'd been intimate with; several of the defendants later employed the "transpanic" defense. Gwen's story is interwoven with Hernández's own, including her experiences dating trans men. She feared for those who didn't easily pass, and reveled in the unfamiliar feeling of "normalcy" that dating those who were able to pass provided. (See: Alejandro, above.) "Qué India" - When Hernández started dating a woman, her Tía Dora stopped talking to her; the silence lasted seven years. (Ironically, it was broken when Hernández began dating Alejandro.) She uses this as a jumping-off point to explore her aunt's racism, particularly against Indians, even though she married one (from Peru) and may have been one herself. In Hernández's words, racism is "defined by contradictions." THREE "Only Ricos Have Credit" - On earning money, stealing money, and borrowing money. Hernández recounts her struggles with credit card debt and materialism. While her aunts blame it on her Americanism, Hernández traces this thirst for things back to an early childhood visit to Colombia, and the fear she felt when she encountered the street kids begging money for milk. "My Father's Hands" - Born in Cuba in 1932, Ygnacio fought against Castro and immigrated to the U.S. when the Havana embassy closed in 1961, swearing off oranges forever. As the economy shifts, he goes from factory work to odd handyman jobs to dishwashing and janitorial services. Hernández remembers the pressure put on a young kid to translate her parents' unemployment forms; one mistranslated word might cost them that week's check. When not working, Ygnacio could often be found in the basement, drinking; "He’s found a store on Bergenline Avenue where the price of beer seems to drop every time unemployment rises." Among the most beautiful and touching pieces in the book, Hernández struggles to understand her father and come to terms with their troubled (and abusive) relationship. "Blackout" - Embarking on what she thinks is her big break as an intern at The New York Times, Hernández is disillusioned by the overwhelming whiteness of the place. The racism is both overt - especially so in the wake of the Jayson Blair scandal, to which Hernández was a witness - and more subtle, such as in how certain stories were deemed newsworthy and the ways in which Hernández was steered in reporting on them. "Después" - Technically an afterward, but every bit as trenchant and self-aware as the ten preceding essays. Shortly after leaving the Times, Hernández lands a job at ColorLines - necessitating a move to San Francisco. Incidentally, the change of zip codes comes at the same time Gavin Newsome begins marrying gays and lesbians. Her mother and aunts refuse to visit her in this city of sin. Hernández's departure heralds the "unraveling" of her family, though not always for the worse: her parents relocate to Florida, where her mom takes an ESL course and starts her own alterations business, while dad returns to Cuba, in a sense. Tía Dora passes away, but the two are thankfully on speaking terms when it happens. When asked by a lover, "Why do you still talk to them?," she turns to President Obama's speech on the Reverend Wright for wisdom. "Some stitches cannot be undone." A Cup of Water Under My Bed represents Hernández's journey away from her family - literal, metaphorical, linguistic - and her return to it. Full circle, and with understanding, if not acceptance. A Cup of Water Under My Bed isn't just informative and challenging; it's also a damn engaging and entertaining read. Hernández channels the maxim "the personal is political" and imbues it with her own form of literary magic. Her words dance, storm, and sulk off the pages, demanding to be heard. I can't remember the last time I picked up a memoir that felt so much like a poem, a song, a piece of artwork. Her prose is a thing of beauty, an occasional Trojan horse for the harsh truths and bitter observations it encapsulates. I'm pretty certain that I subscribed to Ms. at about the same time Hernández was working there. I enjoyed her memoir enough that I'm actually considering pulling my old copies out of storage to see if I can find a few of her columns. If you could see how many boxes of books and magazines I've hoarded over the years, you would understand just how sincere a compliment this is. http://www.easyvegan.info/2015/10/09/...

  30. 5 out of 5

    Jade

    I'm a huge fan of Daisy Hernandez, so I am not surprised that this was such a great read.

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