Cover Image: My Broken Language

My Broken Language

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Member Reviews

While this was an interesting memoir and I appreciated the cultural stories from Philadelphia, I was not in love with this book as much as I had hoped. I found it hard to follow along and struggled to finish it. I know some people love her style of writing, but I was not a huge fan.
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My Broken Language was a really poignant read. Quiara Allegra Hudes takes us on her journey as she searches for belonging and a sense of self. Her understanding of herself often came through language rather than just heritage. Half Puerto Rican, half jewish… heritage obviously played an important role in her development, but as a writer language spoke volumes. I loved how Hudes approached her familial anecdotes and how she tackled her mom’s relationship with Santeria. The chapters are short so the book can be a super quick read, and packed with so many life lessons. Worth the read.
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Though I am not familiar with all of Hudes’ works, I have read Water by the Spoonful and am a huge fan of In The Heights. This memoir was so beautiful and painful and joyous and everything that makes a fantastic memoir. The timeline got a little confusing for me, but I feel this way about 99% of the memoirs I read, and Hudes did a good job of bringing you to her and the stories she tells. I loved the point she made about her work (and culture) not being magical realism!!! She also makes sure to call people out on the microaggressions—even herself, when she would let comments slide.
All in all, I enjoyed this memoir a lot. I did find there were moments that dragged on a bit, but I think that’s pretty normal when reading a memoir by someone with whom you’re not super familiar.
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There were parts of this memoir that really shine and parts that dragged. Ultimately, I think if I would have gone in knowing more about Hudes' work, then I would have been more invested. I left with the feeling that I would love to see her plays.
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If you like stories about identity, family relationships and Hispanic culture like Poet X, Educated or Hillbilly Elegy you would probably love this book!

Awww this was SO GOOD! There is SO MUCH to unpack here!

Just as a literally product is incredibly good! The writing, the characterization and a storyline that reads like fiction (but it is not fiction!) are fantastic! Just keep in mind that this is a lighthearted story but not a light read; the use of metaphors is liberal! It required some real immersion from me I had to rewind often the audiobook often. And, talking about audiobook... I especially recommend the audiobook! Same as Acevedo’s narrations, the musicality of the authentically executed "spanglish" and Latin American accents is a very gratifying experience!

And since the topics are so relevant it goes from "incredibly good" to "simply outstanding"!

It always warms my heart to find good Latin American culture representation and nothing like an ownvoices book to do it right!. I loved how all the different hues of Latin culture were portrayed with so much human depth in a way that was lighthearted, witty and humorous without taking away from the serious topics. I especially loved how Latin American spirituality (e.g. Santeria) was represented.

There is SO MUCH social content to experience as you navigate a world where Latinos are just another minority in the small “Other” slice of the pie and not only marginalized but abused. You'll understand how white feminism interferes with grassroot work and the immensity of the health care disparities in the Latino community. Some stories are just too heartbreaking, like how Latinos were subject to involuntary experiments and sterilization.

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As a Hispanic woman, I related to the characters.  I saw my own family members in some of the characters.  I appreciated the introduction to another religion that may not be spoken of often as well as the language I grew up knowing.  Having the ability to relate to a book is always amazing.
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i…this book…i can’t… 🤯 
5/5 🦋 and a favorite. superior quality. must read. don’t miss out on this one. 

as much a memoir as an ode to the author’s family and an exploration of the impact of our societal injustices on individuals and family systems. “if Nuchi was public enemy number one, if our nation’s advancement depended upon stripping her bare - she, who had barely a thread to her name - then we were a soulless people, a cruel nation dancing upon its victims’ graves.” (on ‘welfare queens’)

Quiara Alegría Hudes’s writing is lyrical and beautiful; each sentence is a poem in and of itself to be read and reread and savored. i can’t imagine how much Quiara discovered about herself while writing this memoir, and am thankful for how open and honest and vulnerable she was in her writing. i wish i could meet her and her entire family - they seem like such magnificent human beings. 

this quote made me feel so seen —> “someone needed to check them, turn on the houselights and stop the show. but i stayed quiet as a confidante, a nonconfrontational good girl, the dutiful eldest, cooperative and diplomatic, every unvoiced retort piling up and burning.” 😫♥️
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Wow! This was a beautiful story of the beautiful Peurto Rican culture. Quiara Alegria Hudes does a wonderful job drawing the reader in with her words and stories about the barrio. My Broken Language was a  coming of age story about heartbreak, family, love, and a sense of belonging.
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This memoir was captivating and highly sensitive. The author perfectly captured what is means to grow up in a mosaic of languages - and although the title is centered on language, the concept of languages is woven throughout the narrative more than explicitly centered, giving opportunity for rich exploration and captivating stories of growing up. This book is a tribute to the women and family who raised her, and though it is a memoir, it is a community story. Although there is an excess of language, little has been recorded before this author wrote her family's story, so I found it ground-breaking. I particularly enjoyed the ending of the memoir, when she explained her journey to theater and writing, and how her childhood with languages informed her art. I also listened to this on audiobook and highly recommend it, her performance brings the book to life!
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THIS IS THE BEST BOOK I"VE EVER READ! GIVE QUIARA ALEGRIA HUDES ALL THE AWARDS. This book and A Cup of Water Under My Bed will remain the books that will have my whole heart for giving me the language of my freaking soul. I don't know how Hudes does it but she writes so beautifully, she feels with us and we feel with her. She's so freaking delicate with the people she writes about and you feel the sense of community tethered in every word she writes. Completely mind blown by this book.
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This beautiful memoir is about Quiara Alegría Hudes finding her voice and navigating her place in the world as a Philly native and daughter to a Puerto Rican feminist and White hippie. From her start in West Philly to attending Yale, it is her evolution of being ashamed of her broken Spanish to embracing language as fluid and writing in a way that was authentic for her and representative of the people around her.

 One of my favorite parts in this book is her apology to her mother for correcting her English while she was growing up. She states, “As if the words I write are my language and not hers. The woman who taught me English…I eat my words. I eat my corrections como una comemierda. Mom, if you ever read this book (and make it this far without disowning me), I ask you one favor: break this English language today and tomorrow and the day after and bestow it new life with each breaking. Endow your fullness upon this cracked colonial tongue. You language genius. This is your English. You earned it. I am only a guest here.”

 She shares three generations of family stories that ultimately shaped her into the woman she is. These are stories of home, relationships, family, self-discovery, loss, spirituality, community care and activism, passion and talent, and breaking silence. She tells these stories to capture them, so they would not be lost to history and because she felt an otherworldly drive to write them.

 Grateful to Quiara Alegría Hudes, Penguin Random House, and NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review this book. I had not heard about this book or its author until discovering it on NetGalley, and My Broken Language is one of the best books I have read this year. I cannot wait to read Hudes’ prior work and see what she does next. She already has a Pulitzer Prize under her belt and has written the book for the Tony-winning Broadway musical, In the Heights then adapted it for the screen.
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This book is a beautifully rendered exploration of walking the tight rope between two parents, two vastly different cultures and language, not just that spoken, but also the musical and visual languages that surround and envelop us.  It evokes her world so brilliantly and so specifically that you find yourself with Quiara as she struggles to hide the orishas throughout her West Philadelphia home from her more traditional friends, as she practices Chopin and discovers Alan Ginsberg by accident.
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Quick review: this memoir hooked me in with its beautiful, lyrical descriptions. That carried the stories for me. I was immersed in every scene. The pacing was quick in some moments, slow in others, so sometimes I was turning pages, other times a bit distracted. The power of the women dazzled me and provided such insight and inspiration to the artist-writer that Hudes became.
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I tried to read this, but gave up about 1/4 of the way through.  It was definitely a DNF for me.  I would still read more by the author.  However, I just didn't connect with this story.

2/5 Stars
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An absolutely breathtaking read. Hudes is so warm and generous, her writing full of so many stories about language, family, home, belonging, art, coming of age as a writer. I loved the many ways she explores what languages means--how it lives inside bodies, how it shapes lives, how it can comfort, complicate, confuse. This memoir felt so intimate, particularly because of how vividly and openly Hudes writes about her family, as well as the North Philly neighborhood where she grew up. There is so much love in this book, and a lot of truth-telling, Funny and moving and full of so many beautiful passages about what it means to be an artist.
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Wow. I just loved this memoir. I hardly have the words to justify a review. 
The author gives us her story - her childhood, her family, her feelings of insecurity being bilingual and mixed race, her journey through music and writing that took her from North Philly to Yale and beyond. 
How she found her voice and brought her family and heritage to the page, to be written down and shared and loved. 
How she grew up surrounded by love and food, but also by AIDS and drugs. Wondering why her neighborhood was so disproportionately affected and becoming the leader of the AIDS awareness group at her high school. so much about the sickness that no one would name and how it affected her neighborhood and family. 
How her search for understanding God led her to Quaker meetings and brought her right back to her own home where her mother was a santera of Lukumí. Learning about Lukumí (also known as Santería) and about Quiara's Taino heritage was fascinating. A very brief history section in one chapter made me ashamed at how little I know of the history of Puerto Rico. 

And the writing! She is a Pulitzer- winning playwright and this memoir shows that she is excellent at writing anything. The love of her family is brought to the page so strongly I cried. Here's a favorite quote (among many): "Mom, if you ever read this book (and make it this far without disowning me), I ask you one favor: break this English language today and tomorrow and the day after and bestow it new life with each breaking. Endow your fullness upon this cracked colonial tongue. You language genius. This is your English. You earned it. I am only a guest here."
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I wanted to like <i>My Broken Language</i>, but struggled with it.  Upon picking it up, I was immediately captivated by Quiara Alegria Hudes's story: urban Puerto Rican Philadelphian uprooted to rural Pennsylvania to live on a farm.  Quiara's mother is a healer, a bit psychic, performs animal sacrifices.  This all sounds so interesting!  The kind of life story that I can't wait to read about.  Unfortunately, the execution fell flat for me.  I struggled with the non-linear storytelling, never quite understanding what was happening, how it connected, or where it was going.  I can see why others would love and enjoy <i>My Broken Language</i> but it didn't work for me.  Thank you to the author & publisher for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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Lyrical like the work Hudes’ is known for, My Broken Language is a beautiful memoir that details the influence of family and place on the work of this artist. There are some really lovely magical realism touches in this telling, and the way in which it highlights language (Spanish with her mom, English with her Dad, some mix elsewhere in her life) and belonging were really inspiring.
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I wish there was a better word to describe this book than "lyrical" because that seems almost trite given Hudes's career trajectory. But lyrical it remains, with gusto.

My Broken Language is smart, witty, winsome, painful, heartbreaking, and awe-inspiring. It's an exploration of home, youth, music, family, culture, belonging, spirituality, and - of course - language. It isn't an easy read but it is a worthwhile one. Highly recommended.
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This nonfiction memoir tells the story of how the author, now a 40-year-old playwright and  growing up in a rich stew of cultural influences, learned to find her own language and identity.  Her mother’s side, the Perez family, was Puerto Rican; they lived almost in an enclave in a suburb of Philadelphia.

Her father was white, and after he remarried, although he lived only an hour away, his middle class suburban white world seemed like another universe to Quiara, far away from the raucous world of her extended family in Philly.  

Dad and his new wife Sharon lectured Quiara about “inner-city problems,”  seemingly wanting her to make a choice to identify with what they considered to be a superior expression of her whiter color.  They had plenty of judgment about her other world, but no real clue what it meant to live with little money, inferior health care, prejudice, underfunded schools, and the constant negative expectations of others.  She thought to herself:  “Who were dad and Sharon anyway? King and queen of Shit-Don’t Stink Land?”  Emotionally, she preferred the Perezes, even though life was hard, and even though, intellectually, she wanted to explore the languages of the white world.

For a while, she inhabited the spaces in between.

At first Quiara thought she found a way to express herself and the pain, confusion, but also joy she felt, through music, which she studied at Yale.   But what she found was alienating.  She wrote:  “Many dictionaries live in this world, and at Yale, ‘music’ came from a different Webster, with a different definition.  The word meant a particular type - Western classical - without even having to specify.  ‘Music’ was a synonym for ‘white.’”

She knew she didn’t want to be part of a world that blindfolded itself to her other culture, and that “didn’t other entire hemispheres of art.”

Then she turned to literature in a creative writing workshop at Brown University, and especially books by others occupying borderlands:  Ralph Ellison, Sandra Cisneros, Toni Morrison.  She learned that she didn’t have to be “loyal” to English.  Language that aims toward perfection, her instructor told her, is a lie, reminding her that  Shakespeare knew this, and broke English until its dictionaries grew by a thousand entries.

She began to write plays that combined her facility with language with the stories of the matriarchal world of the Perez women:   “My pantheon, my Perez women, my biblical ribs and mud.  Out of their rough, mortal flesh was fashioned my tempo and taste.”

She wanted to share their history, and incorporate *their* language - “Spanglish’s ever-shifting syntax and double-rich sonority” into the mainstream.  

As of this writing, she has experienced a great deal of success.  Her play “Elliot, A Soldier's Fugue,” was a finalist for the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. She won the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for her play "Water by the Spoonful."

Evaluation:  So many children now grow up on the borders, between two cultures, and they struggle with which world  will claim their identities.  This revealing memoir will help readers understand the conflicts that often threaten to tear apart the children of diverse unions.
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