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A Cup Of Water Under My Bed Essay

This article is part of the Latin Post Latina Author Series, presented in collaboration with La Casa Azul Bookstore. The author will read an excerpt from her memoir on Friday, Sept. 26, 2014 at La Casa Azul Bookstore.

Daisy Hernandez, author of the must-read "A Cup of Water Under My Bed: A Memoir," was politicized by feminism. The social movement made an impression on the reluctantly controversial NPR contributor, making her starkly aware of her personal identity and the gendered lessons imparted on her during her upbringing. 

Born to a Cuban father and a Santeria-practicing Colombian mother who were financially vulnerable, Hernandez was raised in a working-class, immigrant community in the "shadow of NYC," Fairview, New Jersey. At home, she often played the role of "child translator" to her non-English speaking parents. And like many Latino kids, her family dynamic also included opinionated, story-pouring maternal aunts, three of them in her case, who educated her about love and loss as a Latina in the U.S. 

Lessons offered by her aunts were crucial to her growth because there weren't many books on the shelves that captured her life as a child, or anything outside of the "singular" American experience. Different communities, different religions and different sexual orientations were decidedly absent from those books.

Hernandez didn't happen upon Latino writing until she was in college. There, she found the works of Sandra Cisneros and Richard Rodriguez, and for the first time she saw Spanish, the private language spoken only at home, written alongside English in the book, "Borderlands" by Gloria Anzaldúa. 

"I didn't know I could do that," Hernandez admitted to Latin Post. She didn't know that she could be multilingual in her writing, and after being academically "divorced" from the language, she wasn't necessarily equipped to be multilingual in her compositions. At this same time in her education, Hernandez also discovered the works of African-American writers Audrey Lorde and Bell Hooks, women whose prose focuses on feminism, race, sexuality and class.

In 2002, Hernandez coedited the feminist anthology "Colonize This! Young Women of Color on Today's Feminism," a collection that's held in high regard and considered a resource for anyone studying gender and women's studies. Years later, she acted as the editor of Colorlines, a magazine of essays and articles centered around racial politics. Accolades like the praise Hernandez received for her GLAAD Award-nominated article on the experiences of transgender black men is often counterbalanced by criticism, like she received after using the term "gringo" during commentary on the 2011 Arizona shooting.

"Bill O'Reilly accused me of 'injecting race into the news', which is ridiculous. There are two things always happening in the media. One of those things is an anti-immigrant sentiment, and another thing is that they don't want you to address the issue of race. It's as if to say, "We don't hate you because of your race, we hate you because you're here," Hernandez said.

In addition to her media work, Hernandez has traveled to speak at colleges for 10 years. In that time, she's seen Latinos grow in number and has been able to meet with those students and hear them tell their stories, coaching them through interviewing, educating them on how to dive into personal histories, instructing them on how to create personal essays and, most importantly, encouraging students to write "despite anti-Latino and anti-immigrant" attitudes. 

"A Cup of Water Under My Bed" is a candid book that speaks to those students and Hernandez's 16-year-old self, and it's "dedicated to all of the daughters." A Latina, bisexual coming-of-age memoir unlike any other, it chronicles the life of a young Latina from a working class family, who's entering the journalism field as a team member at the New York Times during a writhing scandal about race.

Written in a non-chronological "collage, hopscotch format," the narrative is arranged in three parts: the home, sex and romance, and race, class and money. The book, like much of Hernandez's writing, went through two revisions -- the "Emotion Draft," a cathartic composition that takes a closer look at lessons learned, and the "Structure Draft," which is more narrative and reflective.

During her conversation with Latin Post, Hernandez explained that "bookstores are vehicle a for change ... political change," which is why Hernandez will be reading from "A Cup of Water Under My Bed," signing copies of her books, and participating in a QA session at La Casa Azul Bookstore (143 E 103rd St, New York, NY) on Sept. 26 from 6-8 p.m.

Check out Daisy Hernandez on her website or follow her on Twitter. Follow La Casa Azul Bookstore on Twitter. 

TagsDaisy Hernandez, A Cup of Water Under My Bed, la casa azul bookstore, Colonize This! Young Women of Color on Today's Feminism, Latina Author Series, Palabras

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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 turniA 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....more

Hardcover, 185 pages

Published September 9th 2014 by Beacon Press (first published January 1st 2014)