Friday, December 12, 2014

New memoir by UNC's Kenan Writer-in-Residence

Daisy Hernandez

I didn't mean to, honestly.
But the books kept piling in, and Daisy Hernandez's "A Cup of Water Under My Bed" (Beacon Press, $24.95), kept getting pushed -- no, not quite under my bed --but in the looming stack next to it.
This evening, tired from carpooling my middle-school granddaughter home after basketball practice, I tucked myself in said bed and began reading.
Oh, my! Such a treat.
Hernandez is the Kenan writer-in-residence at UNC-Chapel Hill, and she has quite a story to tell.
She was born into a Cuban-Colombian family with plenty of warnings from the women in her family about men who seduce with pastries and about expectations that she would thrive in a white world but remain loyal to her roots.
Not as easy as it sounds.
Hernandez, a bi-sexual, allows us into her life with the kind of bravery that's become essential for the best of memoirists.
One of my favorite sections is about her rather unhappy tenure at the New York Times, which probably mirrors any new reporter's or intern's experience at any newspaper, no matter the size.
The meetings take place in a conference room. Inside are a long wooden table, large heavy chairs, and a television in a cabinet. Men show up in stiff white shirts with cups of coffee in hand, notepads and pens, and the day's paper. The women show up in slacks and button-down shirts with notepads and pens and the paper. They file in one by one, welcome me, make jokes about this and that, and it begins to dawn on me that they are regular white people.
I'm not sure what I expected them to look like, but I figured that writing for the New York Times would turn a person into something close to God, or at least Oprah Winfrey. I expected that they would look different somehow, more beautiful, more pristine, that they wouldn't have to read the day's paper because they would have a secret telephone they could pick up and hear about what was happening in the world.