Boston Globe Review: A Cup of Water Under My Bed

As a child, Daisy Hernández cadged candy from a clay dish in the shed; only later will she learn that it was an offering from her Cuban father to Elegguá, a Santería deity she finds more compelling than the Catholic saints her mother’s Colombian family worships. In this beautiful memoir, Hernández describes growing up in New Jersey as the daughter of immigrants, her fierce intelligence and curiosity often getting her in trouble. Hernández sketches her cast of characters so economically it’s easy to miss the brilliance. One aunt “is a library,” full of stories; another woman, who tells fortunes, “keeps her back so straight,” Hernández recalls, “[s]he reminds me of an explanation point: arrogant.”

Language is a source of both pain and pride; the same public schools that taught Hernández English left her illiterate in Spanish until after college. Later, when she tells her mother she’s dating women, some in her family stop speaking with her. In her nascent journalism career she confronts constant reminders of her ethnic difference. “Newsrooms are set up like mazes,” she writes; “everywhere you turn is another white man.” Gorgeously written from start to finish, the book’s emotional heart is in the author’s childhood, and it reverberates through her adulthood. “Writing,” she says, “is how I leave my family and how I take them with me.”