20 Questions for Reading

Whether you’re reading A Cup of Water Under My Bed on your own, with a reading group or for class, here are 20 questions to spark a conversation:

  1. Daisy grows up as an American in a Cuban-Colombian family in the United States. In what ways does she belong to each of these three cultures? In what ways does she feel distanced from each culture?
  2. The memoir’s epigraph reads, “What does a woman inherit that tells her how to go?” How do you interpret this question and, by the book’s close, do you believe Daisy has answered it? Why or why not?
  3. When Daisy is a young girl her mother repeatedly tells her the story of how she came to leave Colombia for America. “I am fighting to stay awake, to hear the story I know by heart, the stories I hear every night” (23). What does Daisy learn about her mother  through this storytelling? In what ways are Daisy and her mother similar or different?
  4. Daisy reacts and feels differently toward the various santeras,or religious leaders, she meets throughout her life. She is initially skeptical and disdainful of Juana, whereas Yvette and Carlos bring Daisy to tears with “the solace of a woman’s words” (69). How did you feel about the “women who know”? What role do they play in their communities?
  5. In the chapter “Queer Narratives,” Daisy moves between her romantic experiences with trans individuals and the ultimately tragic story of a transgender girl, Gwen. Are there ways in which Gwen’s story parallels or contrasts with Daisy’s experience? How would this chapter differ if Gwen’s story were not included?
  6. Daisy continually likens the people in her lives to text. Conchita reminds her of an exclamation point. A boyfriend is a “prose poem.” Writing is her way of understanding her surroundings. How could everything from a genre of writing to punctuation marks help you make sense of your experiences?
  7. The policeman in the memoir’s preface says the Hernandezes’ house should be condemned. “This photograph on the wall, this pot of black beans, this radio we listen to each day, these stories you tell us—he’s saying none of this matters” (xi).  This is not the last time Daisy is unfairly measured, her lifestyle misunderstood. Can you recall any moments in which you were underestimated or undervalued? How did those moments make you feel?
  8. When Daisy gets a publishing job after college, her family is proud of her success. Daisy imagines that this job will bring her the same pride and happiness, but during one meeting she realizes that “happiness is not going to come from this place or from English” (17). What do you think Daisy means by this? At what points in the memoir does Daisy attain happiness from her work?
  9. Daisy likens kissing women to “discovering a new limb” (93).  What does this mean to you? Why do you think Daisy chose this metaphor?
  10. The image Daisy has of her father is elusive and shifts with time. How did it change when she discovered his religion? Does it shift at any other points in the memoir?
  11. Daisy writes, “My mother and aunties teach me that our primary ties are to women” (76) and the dedication of the memoir reads, “Para todas las hijas,” “for all of the daughters.” What are some ways in which Daisy is influenced or helped by communities of women?
  12. How do Daisy’s feelings about English as a language evolve throughout the memoir? How does English impact her interactions with her parents and tías?
  13. In her discussion of the phrase “Qué  india!,” Daisy writes, “What makes racism so difficult to eradicate, not from laws but from people’s minds, is how defined it is by contradictions” (111). What do you think Daisy means by this? How is this statement supported by her experience?
  14. Each member of Daisy’s family reacts somewhat differently to her revealing she is bisexual, some in ways that are unexpected. What are some of the various reactions Daisy receives from family members regarding her sexuality?
  15. To describe Tía Dora’s silence, Daisy writes, “And it is hard, I imagine, for people who have not experienced this to understand the weight of that silence and how the absence of language can feel like a death” (86). Have you ever experienced a similar situation, if even for a period of time far shorter than Tía Dora’s silence? How did it feel?
  16. When Tía Dora invites Daisy back into her life, Daisy decides not to push Tía Dora when she expresses her disgust with two women kissing in a movie they watch together. Have you been in situations in which you disagreed with family members? Did you push back or let them be? Do you believe you made the right decision?
  17. Daisy meets a woman who responds to her Daisy’s bisexuality by asking “Why can’t I date a normal lesbian?” Can you think of other moments when Daisy’s sexuality is misunderstood? Can you identify any stereotypes or misconceptions you may hold about bisexuality? Or, if you identify as bisexual, any you have personally encountered?
  18. Daisy explores the differences between assimilation and acceptance. When she worked at the New York Times, in what ways did Daisy have to adjust or hide her costumbres  or her family life and beliefs, and beliefs to appease coworkers such as Mr. Flaco?
  19. In the epilogue, “Despues,” Daisy described her mother desbaratando or letting out the stitches, a skirt. “It is what I am doing here right now, what I have been doing in all the pages before. I have the story, and I am turning it inside out, laying it down on the ironing board, taking it apart.…” In a way, the memoir is desbaratada and then rearranged. It is divided into short sections that are often arranged nonchronologically. Do you believe this works to paint a cohesive picture? Why or why not?
  20. The memoir is bookended by scenes of travel, beginning with Daisy’s trips to school and ending with her exiting a bus in San Francisco, where she begins her new life. In what ways are transitions central to the memoir? Could you identify a particularly life-changing transition in your own life?

 

Share