#ModernLatinaBookClub features A Cup of Water Under My Bed by Daisy Hernandez



by Suzy Jesus Huerta Quezada

In the coming of age memoir, A Cup of Water Under My Bed, Daisy Hernandez lets us in to a world of reclamation—where the daughter of Latino immigrants can know herself again and again by facing the unknowns as a first-generation child growing up in the United States. These are not the same unknowns chosen by her migratory parents, a father from Cuba and a mother from Columbia. But none the less, we see how these unknowns continue to bring Hernandez into a necessary space of reflection that ties her back, grounds her like an hilo, to the stories of her life, the ones that start with an anchor in another world and unravel to help her navigate her own life as a woman of words, a journalist trying to find her place in a language that binds and confines so many of her own family.  Making her way through the religion, philosophies, cultural norms and dichos that so govern the spirit of her parents and tias, Hernandez takes us on a journey to her understanding that “writing makes everything else possible” as it is both the tool needed for her to love a distant and once abusive father and a tool needed to liberate herself from the stitches of time and often problematic cultural beliefs that cannot be undone.

The title of the book comes from Hernandez’s discovery of her father’s non-Catholic practices in the Orishas faith and Santeria- practices he keeps hidden from her until she discovers his offerings and altars hidden in their home. Soon, however, as she grows up, Hernandez comes to associate this faith not with the primary man in her life, but with the women. She witnesses the power that women have when they gather together to share stories and hardships to listen to the insights and predictions of women who “read tarot cards and cups of water.” These women come from all over Latin America and they practice this art of seeing from their kitchen tables or from the plastic covered couches in their salas. This lesson about the way women come together to heal one another spiritually and physically informs so much of the way Hernandez starts to come into her own understanding of intersectional feminism. For Hernandez, the healing of women by women in order to combat machismo and misogyny, or the poverty of factory workers seen as expendable, opens her up to recognize the feminist spirit of the women in her life. One afternoon as she reads Gloria Anzaldua to her mother, Hernandez sees the way her mother already recognizes this struggle of duality and existing in the in-between, that this new feminist thinking may be new to her in language, but that this is not new to her mother or any women like her who push forward in a foreign country, against all odds, and build their lives from scratch, often being stronger and more resilient than the men in their lives.

Even still, with this recognition of her mother’s incredible insight about living in a hybrid space, Hernandez is challenged by the ways in which her family refuses to see her when she comes out as a queer woman. As she begins to discover her own sexuality and sexual voice, Hernandez hurts from the pain of being dismissed and demonized by her own family, an insight she uses like a weapon in her search for truth as a journalist who writes about the murder of Gwen Aruajo, a young trans woman who was violently punished for being herself and claiming her identity. In this way, Hernandez beautifully weaves together her own coming into consciousness with the current events of her time, showing how so many of the stories we read about in the news are stories about us, about our families, about our own private lives hidden in the memories about fathers, mothers, tias, and lovers. In telling these stories, Hernandez reclaims that past and offers a new future, a new her, a space where the daughter of immigrants can, like her parents before her, reclaim and create her own self in a new world.

Suzy Jesus Huerta Quezada is a college composition writing professor and poet from San Jose, California.  She dedicates most of her energy to the California community college system and its inspiring student body. She is a two-time VONA alumna. Suzy is proud to have founded the new reading series, Oakland Crossroads, which she curated at Studio Grand in Oakland. Her work has appeared in:  Imaniman, Cheers from the Wasteland, La Bloga, The Packinghouse Review, Poets Responding to SB1070, Bordersenses, Poetry of Resistance: Voices for Social Justice and other journals.