A journalist’s account of growing up between cultures and learning to
embrace both her ethnic and bisexual identities.
Former ColorLines magazine executive editor Hernández
(co-editor: Colonize This!: Young Women of Color on Today's
Feminism, 2002) was raised as the first-generation American child of a
working-class Colombian mother and Cuban father. For her, “everything real”—from
family conversations to the observations of her beloved aunts to favorite TV
shows—happened in Spanish. However, her family wanted their daughter to achieve
more in life than they could, so learning English “to become white” and
Americanized became the goal they impressed upon their daughter. Yet as
Hernández came to understand, learning a language that was hers by
nationality but not by ethnicity meant growing away from her family and adopting
the attitude that she had “no history, no past, no culture.” The break was not
easy; so much from her colorful dual heritage formed the bedrock of her
identity. In her parents’ world, saints performed miracles, and cups of water
could carry messages between the living and the dead. In that world, too, women
married (or avoided) certain kinds of men. As Hernández grew into adulthood and
sexuality, she fulfilled her parents’ desire to find a “gringo” boyfriend. At
the same time, she discovered a desire for lesbian and transgender women. Her
family castigated Hernández for her bisexuality but also lauded their daughter
for finding middle-class success as a New York Times reporter. Striving to be true to herself as a queer (rather than queer and whitewashed) Latina, she eventually took a chance writing for a social justice magazine in San Francisco. Warm and thoughtful, Hernández writes with
cleareyed compassion about living, and redefining success, at the intersection
of social, ethnic and racial difference.
Personal storytelling at its most authentic and heartfelt.