Be Proud of Your Past, Embrace the Future. That’s this year’s theme for Hispanic Heritage Month. In times like these, the theme is a manifesto to live by. The books in our catalog about the lives and contributions of Hispanic/Latinx communities attest to it.
Fiction can be a rich go-to venue for walking in someone else’s shoes, to transport yourself to another place or time or mindset through the power of expert wordsmithing. Most often, what you read in novels is based on real-life stories of people who have lived the tale. And when these stories are rendered in works of memoir, historiography, biography, journalistic exposés, or even poetry, we feel the same narrative power as we do in fiction. This is especially important when reading about the diverse and complex lives of Latinx communities.
By Daisy Hernández | My mother carried me in her arms on my first trip to Colombia. I was eight months old. She stuffed me in a fluffy pink snowsuit, and we took a picture with the pilot. On my second trip, I was a toddler. Mami couldn’t carry me because I wouldn’t let her. Already hell bent on freedom, I scampered up and down the plane’s carpeted aisle as it made its way from New York City to Colombia. On my third trip, I ran away from my mother at the airport in Bogotá, leaving her with the baby sister in the stroller, careening past adults with worried foreheads, and not even stopping when I spotted the men in uniforms, the rifles in their hands. I didn’t know about the civil war or the drug war, and the Avianca flight getting blown up in the air and killing all 107 people onboard was a few years into the future. It was 1982. I barreled toward the line of familiar voices past the doors: my primas and tías and tíos. An uncle who drove a school bus had brought it to the airport filled with everyone to pick us up.
By Angela Maria SpringSometimes it takes a cataclysmic event to unearth who we are. Even though I’ve been a bookseller of color for sixteen years, I didn’t fully realize until last year how great the need was for an inclusive bookstore curated and shaped by a majority of people of color. I started Duende District Bookstore this past January to celebrate the power of a diverse community expressed through the bookstore’s space for books, learning and discussion for all voices. But even this began somewhere. So I want to share how the cracks in my foundation formed nearly years prior, when I read a book by Daisy Hernández.
By Gayatri PatnaikOne of my sharpest memories as a girl was when an immigration officer came to our house in rural Finzel, Maryland when I was about nine years old. He showed up at our house unannounced and I still remember the stunned look on my mother’s face when she answered the door. I didn’t realize until much later how high the stakes were or how very close we had come to being deported. While I can’t share specifics, I can say that one of the things the officer asked for was the phone number of people my mother knew who could attest to her character. And I remember sitting there in our kitchen hearing the one-sided conversation as he called friends or acquaintances or colleagues of my mother’s, one after another. When he left, I walked with him to the door and he shook my mother’s hand and told her she was a remarkable woman and that if she didn’t hear from him in the next six months, she wouldn’t have to worry about her citizenship status further.
By Daisy HernándezI don’t know how to talk to my parents these days. Mami didn’t vote for Trump, but when I told her my outrage the day after the election, she said, “The man hasn’t even taken office yet. Let him take office.” I initially took her defense to mean that like my father, she had voted for Cheetoh, since she usually follows Papi’s lead.
People often ask if it was hard for me, as a journalist, to write a memoir. It wasn’t. In many ways, the people I interviewed over the years for news stories—many of them immigrants, many of them poor—taught me to trust the power of personal stories. One of them was Alaaedien. He drove cabs in New York City, and one day, he picked up a man outside of Grand Central Station. The man was young, and he wanted Alaaedien to take him to upstate New York. The cab ride would cost almost a thousand dollars, Alaaedien explained. That was fine. The young man’s new girlfriend lived upstate. He would pay Alaaedien when they got there.
When Daisy Hernández thinks about Stone Butch Blues, Leslie Feinberg's classic novel of the transgender experience, she thinks of a conference room in Manhattan and a young trans man she was in love with.
Beacon Broadside recently spoke with Daisy Hernández about her new book A Cup of Water Under My Bed, her literary and cultural influences, and the process of finding herself, both within her immigrant community and within the new, queer life she created for herself.