Thursday, October 2, 2014

Review: A Cup Of Water Under My Bed by Daisy Hernández

Usually when I begin a book I've been longing to read I may finish that book in a week. I received Daisy's book 2 weeks ago and I am still only 1/3 of the way through (pg 70 right this second). This is not because the book is a difficult read, poorly written, or lacking in any way. Actually, the opposite!

Reading Daisy's memoir has been too close to home to rush through. It's been one of those books that when you read a few sentences that reach deep into you, you pause. I paused so many times in the first several chapters. Although I do not ethnically closely identify with Daisy, or have immigrant parents with a similar background (our immigration stories as Puerto Ricans are similar but not very much in the same way, it's complicated!) a lot of what she shares is an experience I have lived too.

(Author Daisy Hernández foto credit Jorge Rivas)

What is giving me pause are the ways Daisy explains her transformative experiences as a young woman growing up in the US. How she realizes what she reads in books assigned by US educators and what is taught in her classrooms distances her from her mother, but also she comes to realize she is learning what her mother has already known because she has lived those experiences. This is especially clear when Daisy discusses going to college and reading Anzaldúa's work on Borderlands and language and her mother's response to her readings. Her mother has lived what Anzaldúa writes.

I also struggle with memoirs about Latinas and their mothers. The long sentences/discussions about memory and remembering are the most challenging. This is something that is quickly leaving me as my mother dives deeper and deeper into her Alzheimer's and dementia.What does it mean when someone says the body remembers, or what our memories exist for if the lived reality is one of losing those memories in every way possible?

I appreciate how Daisy's story is continuing the legacy of authors of Color who challenge the linear narrative. Yes, we follow her evolution from girlhood to adulthood, but we are not always on a straight or rigid path. We read a story that is complicated and layered. A story that is not going to easily fit into a linear western way of thinking and reading about time, place, space, love. Daisy introduces her experiences with Catholicism and Santería through her adolescence throughout the book. It is really not just a book, but a form of media where you go along with Daisy as she relays her experiences, almost as if she is interviewing herself. How certain memories lead to other stories that may not have taken place at the same time, but are vital to the story nonetheless.

What I am most looking forward to, and a part of her narrative that has yet to be discussed in the parts of the book I've read, are Daisy's discussions of sexual orientation. It is rare when we have a book that centers and discusses a Latina who identifies as a child of immigrants and bisexual that a leading publisher has supported. Daisy is continuing the legacy of those beloved queer authors of Color, paving a way for those of us to come, to share, and to build together. To expand and challenge the ideas folks have about bisexuality, love, intimacy, and life!

I shall update this when I have completed the book. In the meantime, the generous folks at Beacon Press have offered one free copy of Daisy's new book to a reader of The LatiNegr@s Project for Latinx Heritage Month. Visit us there to learn more about the amazing giveaways we have for celebrating all of us!

Author photo credit goes to Jorge Rivas. Cover art credit goes to Beacon Press.

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