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A Cup of Water Under My Bed

Summary of the Book:

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.

More about the book:

About the Author

I grew up in New Jersey. That’s where I heard the best stories about Cuba and Colombia and this lady who knows how to eat an avocado so you won’t get pregnant. It’s also where I first learned about feminism, queer identity, and race in the Americas. You can read these stories in my new book, A Cup of Water Under My Bed: A Memoir.

For the current academic year, I am the Kenan Visiting Writer at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. In the fall of 2015, I will be an Assistant Professor in the Creative Writing program at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.

My commentaries have been in the New York Times, Ms. magazine and In These Times. My opeds have also been aired on NPR’s All Things Considered, and O’Reilly and Juan Williams have blasted me for “injecting race” into the news.

With my comadre, the poet and author Bushra Rehman, I’ve co-edited the anthology Colonize This! Young Women of Color on Today’s Feminism. Of the book, author Rebecca Walker said:
“These young women pick up where foremothers Audre Lorde and Gloria Anzaldúa left off.”

Colonize This! is taught in women studies classes alongside the classic works of feminist theories, but I’m still mostly proud that young women tell me they buy the book because it’s a good read.

At ColorLines, a newsmagazine on race and politics, I spent six amazing years working with a virtual, multi-racial newsroom of reporters, activists, and bloggers. ColorLines was awarded UTNE’s General Excellence Award in 2007, and my article “Becoming a Black Man” about how transgender people of color experience race when they transition from one gender to another was nominated for a 2009 GLAAD Media Award.

My essays have appeared in several anthologies including 50 Ways to Support Lesbian and Gay Equality (New World Library, 2005), Without a Net: The Female Experience of Growing Up Working Class (Seal Press, 2004), and Border-Line Personalities: A New Generation of Latinas Dish on Sex, Sass, and Cultural Shifting (Harper Paperbacks, 2004). At twenty-five, I was a columnist for Ms. magazine, writing personal stories about feminism and my so-called Latina life. Two years later, I spent a year onThe New York Times’s metro desk, where I covered fires, MTA fare hikes, and how undocumented immigrants decide whether to file tax returns.

My writing and I have been blessed with residencies at Hedgebrook (2000), MacDowell Colony (2001), Blue Mountain Center (2008), and the Djerassi Resident Arts Program (2009). I’ve also had the most amazing opportunity to be a part of the Macondo writing workshop started by Sandra Cisneros in San Antonio, Texas, and the VONA workshop family in the San Francisco Bay Area.

I received a B.A. in English at William Paterson University, an M.A. in journalism and Caribbean and Latin American studies at New York University, and an M.F.A. in creative writing from the University of Miami.

Book Review

Izzy Montoya's review, Apr 30, 2016:
A Cup of Water Under My Bed is a wonderful book. Hernández has woven her life into a powerful and necessary narrative about race, sexuality, gender, class, and spirituality. Her unique form of storytelling gives the reader a sense of introspection; of fitting all the pieces back together, and immediacy; of living the experience. Through her use of first person present, we take on Hernández’s memories, are thrown into the thick of it. So often we say, “If I’d only known then what I know now.” Like the stories of our families, Hernández book teaches us a little something about life.

This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers:
In reading A Cup of Water Under My Bed I pictured Daisy Hernandez's childhood as a kind of tightrope dance. She learned to walk a straight and narrow line between varying beliefs and experiences concerning religion (Catholic versus Santeria), language (English versus Spanish), society (wealthy versus poverty), culture (American versus Cuban-Columbian), and even relationships (abuse versus love) and sex (straight, bisexual and lesbian). Navigating her coming of age through these conflicting influences, Hernandez emerges as compassionate and intelligent. She has the ability to articulate the difficulties of childhood (her father's alcoholism and abuse) as well as the innocence of childhood (stealing candies and eavesdropping on adult conversations). When she has to hide her sexuality from her aunt in order to have a relationship with her it breaks my heart. As it was they stopped speaking for seven years when her tia heard Hernandez has kissed a girl. Of course there is more to the story than this. Just go read it. Again.