By Raquel Cepeda
In 2009, while Raquel Cepeda nearly misplaced her estranged father to middle affliction, she was once terrified she'd by no means be aware of the reality approximately her ancestry. whenever she regarded within the reflect, Cepeda observed a mystery--a tapestry of races and ethnicities that got here jointly in an ambiguous combine. With time operating out, she determined to embark on an archaeological dig of types by utilizing the technological know-how of ancestral DNA checking out to excavate every thing she may possibly approximately her genetic history.
Digging via stories lengthy buried, she embarks upon a trip not just into her ancestry but in addition into her personal background. Born in Harlem to Dominican mom and dad, she used to be despatched to reside together with her maternal grandparents within the Paraíso (Paradise) district in Santo Domingo whereas nonetheless a child. It proved to be an idyllic reprieve in her in a different way fraught adolescence. Paraíso got here to intend relatives, domestic, belonging. whilst Cepeda again to the USA, she found her relatives constellation had replaced. Her mom had a brand new, abusive boyfriend, who relocated the relations to San Francisco. while that courting fell aside, Cepeda chanced on herself again in ny urban along with her father and ecu stepmother: attending tennis classes and Catholic faculties; battling vicious battles wih her father, who discouraged her from expressing the Dominican a part of her hyphenated id; and immersed within the '80s hip-hop tradition of uptown ny. It was once in those streets, in the course of the prism of hip-hop and the occasionally loving embody of her neighborhood, that Cepeda built her personal identification.
Years later, while Cepeda had develop into a winning journalist and documentary filmmaker, the strands of her DNA may take her extra, around the globe and into heritage. Who have been her ancestors? How did they--and she--become Latina? Her trip, because the so much unforgettable ones usually do, may lead her to areas she hadn't anticipated to move. With a colourful lyrical prose and fierce honesty, Cepeda parses thoughts of race, identification, and ancestral DNA between Latinos through the use of her personal Dominican-American tale as one instance, and within the technique arrives at a few type of peace along with her father.
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Extra resources for Bird of Paradise: How I Became Latina
Dad told us we were having something special for dessert—a flaming ice-cream cake. The waiter wheeled out a tray with the cake on it, and the woman with the gloves lit it with a taper. Everyone stopped eating to watch. The flames had a slow, watery movement, rolling up into the air like ribbons. Everyone started clapping, and Dad jumped up and raised the waiter’s hand above his head as if he’d won first prize. A few days later, Mom and Dad went off to the blackjack table and then almost immediately came looking for us.
Then Grandma would make a snide comment about Dad being shiftless. Dad would say something about selfish old crones with more money than they knew what to do with, and soon enough they’d be face-to-face in what amounted to a full-fledged cussing contest. ” Grandma would scream. ” Dad would shout back. ” Dad had the more inventive vocabulary, but Grandma Smith could outshout him; plus, she had the home-court advantage. A time would come when Dad had had enough and he’d tell us kids to get in the car.
Mom, however, told us that the FBI wasn’t really after Dad; he just liked to say they were because it was more fun having the FBI on your tail than bill collectors. We moved around like nomads. We lived in dusty little mining towns in Nevada, Arizona, and California. They were usually nothing but a tiny cluster of sad, sunken shacks, a gas station, a dry-goods store, and a bar or two. They had names like Needles and Bouse, Pie, Goffs, and Why, and they were near places like the Superstition Mountains, the dried-up Soda Lake, and the Old Woman Mountain.