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Bird of Paradise: How I Became Latina Paperback – February 4, 2014
The Amazon Book Review
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
“I applaud Raquel Cepeda’s courage and brilliance. This is an important book, shedding light on questions that many of us ask ourselves, but seldom speak about out loud.” (Marcus Samuelsson, chef and author of New York Times best-seller Yes, Chef)
“A thrilling and impassioned quest into the heart of the race question and the Latino—a label as we've come to understand it. With meticulous research and refreshing honesty, Cepeda breaks the code not only of her own origins, but those of an entire people. Bird of Paradise is a necessary and important book for our time.” (Patricia Engel author of Vida)
"In Bird of Paradise, Raquel Cepeda takes on, with cultural flair and brutal honesty, what it means to be the living embodiment of a global society. A Dominican-American woman seeking the truth about her roots, Cepeda uses tools including DNA testing and her reporterly skill for teasing out family secrets. What she finds is a revelation not just for her or for Latino Americans, but for anyone who cares about the way the past connects us to the future." (Farai Chideya author of Kiss the Sky and Don’t Believe the Hype)
“Snappy, jazzy memoir of a Dominican upbringing by a New York journalist and documentary filmmaker…asserts that constructing one’s identity requires expressing and celebrating its makeup.” (Kirkus Reviews)
"Raquel Cepeda has long been one of the hip-hop community's most passionate and visionary writers and filmmakers; now, with this stunning blend of memoir and reportage, mythos and logos, we will have to share her with the world. An elegant, electric mash-up, Bird of Paradise offers resonant snapshots of a bygone New York City, family portraits saturated with beauty, honesty, and pain, captivating travelogues, and a fascinating, wide-angled look at ethnicity and identity. Cepeda's story is wrought with care and insight – and ought to increase the sale of DNA testing kits by about twelve thousand percent." (Adam Mansbach #1 New York Times bestselling author of GO THE F**K TO SLEEP and RAGE IS BACK)
“A beautiful story of reconciliation and redemption.” (The Huffington Post)
"I hope that Raquel Cepeda's experience searching for her roots will encourage more Latinos to look at themselves with the same honesty and fierceness." (Esmeralda Santiago)
"...a fascinating mix of different avenues of spiritual influences." (International Society of Genetic Genealogy)
"At a time when Latinas of any age struggle with owning our voice and our identity and dealing with the mixed messages they get from this country—'We love you, we hate you! Stay! Go!'—Raquel Cepeda opens her heart and shows us all a new and real path towards the futuro, the future. I believe this book is transformational and will not only change lives, but save them too." (Maria Hinojosa, NPR and PBS anchor, and executive producer of Latino USA)
“Drawing on the science of DNA testing and her own sense and experience of mysticism, Cepeda, an award-winning journalist and documentary filmmaker, offers a ‘synthesis between logos and mythos’ in a thoroughly engaging look at race from a Latina’s perspective on what is touted as a post racial society.” (Booklist, starred review)
About the Author
Raquel Cepeda is an award-winning journalist, cultural activist, and documentary filmmaker. A former magazine editor, her byline has appeared in The Village Voice, CNN.com, the Associated Press, and many others. Cepeda directed and produced Bling: A Planet Rock, the critically acclaimed documentary about American hip-hop culture’s obsession with diamonds. She lives with her husband, a writer and TV producer, daughter, and son in her beloved New York City.
Top customer reviews
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The descriptions of her characters and locations in NYC are so vivid that you feel as if you are there with her. Also the amount of information about DNA testing she provides, definitely sparked my interest to learn more about it and to take on the opportunity to find about my ancestors.
Raquel Cepeda is an inspiration to Latina writers like myself to keep writing about our stories!
It works to a tee when she visits her abusive Dad and hopeless Mom as an adult to talk about her heritage (and get DNA cheek swabs, at least from Dad). She is the least sentimental of writers, so when she finds some flinty charity for her father (who she realizes she loves despite all the BS he laid on her) and her mother, who she realizes did her an unlikely favor by throwing her out of her childhood home and banishing her doom-y fuku (curse I guess), it is very, very poignant.
Not quite Dickensian was her childhood but filled with equal parts family misery and hip hop joyousness. Ironically, the "How I Became a Latina" is really more in the memoir, in the content of her character, rather than the DNA research. She was a Latina in her soul before the DNA tests came back and showed her (to her evident delight) that the vanished Taino Indians live on in her, and that our ancestral home of Africa is big in her heritage, as well.
Dominican women are the most beautiful in the world and the DNA shows why: the sturdiest of Spanish, Indian and African genes combine into a genetic tree of heaven.
Viva Raquel! Besides a writer (on hip hop culture) and filmmaker she is also a boxer so she totally kicks ass. She also seems to have a happy family life and I love happy endings! Living well is the best revenge!
Most recent customer reviews
conduct an intelligent and important conversation about parenting and parentage.