Finalists for the Third Annual Bisexual Book Awards were announced on Tuesday. Among them was author Daisy Hernández’s memoir, A Cup of Water Under My Bed, published last year by Beacon Press. The memoir explores her Cuban-Colombian identity and how the women in her family influenced her feelings about love, class, and race.
When Hernández was twelve, a white town official inspected the home that she lived in with her parents in preparation for the construction of an additional room. After looking over the home, the inspector muttered, “This house should be condemned.” Hernández writes that she understood this statement as a personal attack on the value of her life and that of her family’s: “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. It should not only be thrown away but bulldozed.”
Hernández’s memoir emerges as forceful repudiation of the idea that her Cuban-Colombian experiences (as ramshackle as they might appear to the outside observer) had no significant worth and could be so easily dismissed and erased. Years later, when she began to write the memoir as a columnist for the feminist magazine Ms., it was to these memories that she turned to in an effort to materialize and make public the experiences she felt had been bulldozed or pushed into the shadows.
With this goal in mind, the author weaves her exploration of her sexual orientation with her Cuban-Colombian identity. In the second section of her book, aptly titled “Queer Narratives,” she describes bisexuality as “learning that I can shift my weight from one leg to the other, that I have a second leg. Kissing women is like discovering a new limb.” The novelty quickly changes, however, when she realizes that her family does not have the same enthusiasm for her discovery. Her Tia Dora in particular stops talking to her because she “admitted to kissing a woman.”
However, Hernández pushes forward boldly to reveal another aspect of her sexual orientation, an attraction to women who are “transgender, female-to-male, but without the surgeries.” By doing so, she challenges readers to consider the different and deeply personal ways in which people explore their sexuality.
A Cup of Water Under My Bed is a finalist for the Bi Writers Association’s Bisexual Book Awards in the Memoir/Biography category. Winners will be announced at a ceremony on May 30 in New York City. The association’s director, Sheela Lambert explains that bisexual writers have few opportunities for recognition, even in LGBT award ceremonies. Lambert says the Bisexual Book Awards was created three years ago “to increase awareness of bisexual books, to inspire authors to write more bi-themed books and to encourage more publishers to publish them. Since we launched our Bisexual Book Awards, we have had the opportunity to reward authors and publishers for their efforts.”