Bird of Paradise

Un libro in lingua di Raquel Cepeda edito da Atria Books, 2014

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“A thrilling and impassioned quest into the heart of the race question and the Latino… With meticulous research and refreshing honesty, Cepeda breaks the code not only of her own origins, but those of an entire people” (Patricia Engel, author of Vida).

In 2009, when Raquel Cepeda almost lost her estranged father to heart disease, she feared she’d never know the truth about her ancestry. Every time she looked in the mirror, Cepeda saw a mystery. With time running out, she decided to use the science of ancestral DNA testing to excavate everything she could about her genetic history. Bird of Paradise is the story of that remarkable quest to uncover the truth about her ancestors, as well as herself.

Born in Harlem to Dominican parents, Cepeda was sent to live with her maternal grandparents in the Paraíso (Paradise) district in Santo Domingo while still a baby. Paraíso came to mean family, home, and belonging to her, but when Cepeda returned to the US, she discovered her family constellation had changed. Her mother had a new, abusive boyfriend, who relocated the family to San Francisco. When that relationship fell apart, Cepeda found herself back in New York City with her father and European stepmother; fighting vicious battles with her father, who discouraged her from expressing her Dominican heritage; and immersed in the ’80s hip-hop culture of uptown Manhattan. It was in these streets that Cepeda constructed her own identity. And as she grew into the successful journalist and documentary filmmaker she is today, she pushed the questions of identity even further—Who were her ancestors? How did they—and she—become Latina?

With vibrant lyrical prose and fierce honesty, Cepeda has written “a beautiful story of reconciliation and redemption” (Huffington Post). It is an exploration into the science of DNA, the history of Latinos in America, and the concept of race, using her own journey of self-discovery—and eventually peace with her father—as a shining example.

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