Book Review: A Cup of Water Under My Bed

Book Review: A Cup of Water Under My BedA Cup of Water Under My Bed: A Memoir
by Daisy Hernandez
on September 9th 2014
Pages: 185
Published by Beacon Press
Genres: LGBTQ, Memoir, Non-Fiction, Short Stories
Goodreads

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.

My Takeaway

“Generally speaking, gay people come out of the closet, straight people walk around the closet, and bisexuals have to be told to look for the closet. We are too preoccupied with shifting.”
Daisy Hernández, A Cup of Water Under My Bed

A Cup of Water Under My Bed was chosen by my book club at work (lovingly named El Barrio Book Club). The memoir was heartfelt, witty, honest and full of sentiment. I truly enjoyed the vivid vignettes Hernández’s provided throughout the book. I found myself reminiscing quite a lot. As a first-generation Dominican-American, I appreciate and cherish being part of two cultures. I love the United States and I love the Dominican Republic (DR) . . . However, my traditions are pretty much all Dominican (with a es-prinkle of American) because of my parents — especially my mom. This woman did not play around and meant business! I was born in the US, but Spanish was my first language. Once I learned English, I was not allowed to speak it at home until I was around thirteen years old. Also, every year until the age of nine, I traveled to DR with my abuela (Mama). Some of my fondest childhood memories are from those amazing summer trips. Many of Hernández’s anecdotes reminded me of my childhood. I too had to translate and interpret for family members (grandparents, aunts, uncles, neighbors, and my dad). Interestingly, my parents worked at a glass factory for many years until it closed. I appreciated Hernández’s candid writing especially on common taboo subjects in Latino households. I thoroughly enjoyed this memoir and highly recommend it. Hernández gives readers a front row seat to her childhood and early experiences as a queer and feminist Latina.

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