GOOD MORNING AMERICA BUZZ PICK • The Pulitzer Prize–winning playwright and co-writer of In the Heights tells her lyrical story of coming of age against the backdrop of an ailing Philadelphia barrio, with her sprawling Puerto Rican family as a collective muse.
“Quiara Alegría Hudes is in her own league. Her sentences will take your breath away. How lucky we are to have her telling our stories.”—Lin-Manuel Miranda, award-winning creator of Hamilton and In the Heights
ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR: NPR, New York Public Library, BookPage, BookRiot
Quiara Alegría Hudes was the sharp-eyed girl on the stairs while her family danced their defiance in a tight North Philly kitchen. She was awed by her mother and aunts and cousins, but haunted by the unspoken, untold stories of the barrio—even as she tried to find her own voice in the sea of language around her, written and spoken, English and Spanish, bodies and books, Western art and sacred altars. Her family became her private pantheon, a gathering circle of powerful orisha-like women with tragic real-world wounds, and she vowed to tell their stories—but first she’d have to get off the stairs and join the dance. She’d have to find her language.
Weaving together Hudes’s love of music with the songs of her family, the lessons of North Philly with those of Yale, this is a multimythic dive into home, memory, and belonging—narrated by an obsessed girl who fought to become an artist so she could capture the world she loved in all its wild and delicate beauty.
LONGLISTED FOR THE ANDREW CARNEGIE MEDAL
Pulitzer Prize–winning playwright Hudes (Water by the Spoonful) delivers a love letter to her Puerto Rican heritage in her astonishing debut memoir. Chronicling her childhood in North Philadelphia, with a Jewish father and Boricua mother, and her early career as a playwright, she exposes chasms around identity and builds bridges between her selves as Boricua, mixed race, composer, writer, and observer. After her parents' marriage dissolved, she bounced between two households and felt "stretched between English me and Spanish me." Her mom, a faithful Santeria adherent, and the soulful dancing of her cousins left her sidelined and unable to communicate: "My words and my world did not align." Then her "not-quite-stepfather" brought home an old piano, and she discovered music was a "new language." Upon leaving for Yale to study composition, Hudes felt at odds with the privileged backgrounds of her peers, and it wasn't until she enrolled in an MFA program at Brown that she found her voice and was able to incorporate her Boricua culture into her theater productions, a breakthrough that "reminded viscerally of my inheritance." The fine-tuned storytelling is studded with sharply turned phrases (after long workdays, her mom is "soggy-limbed, a marionette whose strings had come loose"). This heartfelt, glorious exploration of identity and authorship will be a welcome addition to the literature of Latinx lives.