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My Broken Language: A Memoir

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Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Quiara Alegría Hudes tells her lyrical story of coming of age against the backdrop of an ailing Philadelphia barrio, with her sprawling idiosyncratic, love-and-trouble-filled Puerto Rican family as a collective muse. Quiara Alegría Hudes was the sharp-eyed girl on the stairs while her family danced in her grandmother's tight North Philly ki Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Quiara Alegría Hudes tells her lyrical story of coming of age against the backdrop of an ailing Philadelphia barrio, with her sprawling idiosyncratic, love-and-trouble-filled Puerto Rican family as a collective muse. Quiara Alegría Hudes was the sharp-eyed girl on the stairs while her family danced in her grandmother's tight North Philly kitchen. She was awed by her aunts and uncles and cousins, but haunted by the secrets of the family and 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 books with the stories of her family, the lessons of North Philly with those of Yale, this is an inspired exploration of 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.


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Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Quiara Alegría Hudes tells her lyrical story of coming of age against the backdrop of an ailing Philadelphia barrio, with her sprawling idiosyncratic, love-and-trouble-filled Puerto Rican family as a collective muse. Quiara Alegría Hudes was the sharp-eyed girl on the stairs while her family danced in her grandmother's tight North Philly ki Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Quiara Alegría Hudes tells her lyrical story of coming of age against the backdrop of an ailing Philadelphia barrio, with her sprawling idiosyncratic, love-and-trouble-filled Puerto Rican family as a collective muse. Quiara Alegría Hudes was the sharp-eyed girl on the stairs while her family danced in her grandmother's tight North Philly kitchen. She was awed by her aunts and uncles and cousins, but haunted by the secrets of the family and 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 books with the stories of her family, the lessons of North Philly with those of Yale, this is an inspired exploration of 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.

30 review for My Broken Language: A Memoir

  1. 5 out of 5

    Martin

    A beautifully done memoir of the coming of age Quiara Alegría Hudes, her hardships and struggles, and the confusion she faced with her own personal identity of who she was and where she fit in, in her world of North and West Philly and beyond. From a young age Qui Qui noticed a difference in her parents. Her father, a Jewish atheist wood-worker who believes "Religion is the root of all evil", and a mother who is a very spiritual, very superstitious Puerto Rican that takes her religion very serio A beautifully done memoir of the coming of age Quiara Alegría Hudes, her hardships and struggles, and the confusion she faced with her own personal identity of who she was and where she fit in, in her world of North and West Philly and beyond. From a young age Qui Qui noticed a difference in her parents. Her father, a Jewish atheist wood-worker who believes "Religion is the root of all evil", and a mother who is a very spiritual, very superstitious Puerto Rican that takes her religion very seriously. Growing up in a home where only English was spoken in the presence of her father, and Spanish only when her father was gone and her mother was worshipping. Eventually her parents separate, and the confusion and denial of identity grows and grows. As she grows older, she realizes the disproportionate issues that her Perez family faces, compared to those of other families she went to school with. The stories of her cousins are at once heart wrenching for the societal issues and disparities they faced, while all at once uplifting and heart-warming the way that the stories of Quiara's cousins eventually went to solidifying and connecting her to her identity in a beautiful way. Laced with beautiful metaphors, thought provoking language and syntax, touching on societal issues and societal short-comings, this book is sure to have something for readers of all types. After recently taking a cultural communications class last semester, examination of the language and the code-switching to express ideas was a amazing way to produce a rich environment, that really brought life to all of the individuals in Ms. Hudes life. It also helped to express the conundrum in expressing identity through language and finally finding your voice in the cacophony of words and expressions that exists for a bilingual speaker from birth.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Mainlinebooker

    Can't type well due to hand injury, but run out for this one. Exquisite writing and beautiful story of mother and child love and the disharmony of race. Also,for Philadelphians you will get a kick out of this. Can't type well due to hand injury, but run out for this one. Exquisite writing and beautiful story of mother and child love and the disharmony of race. Also,for Philadelphians you will get a kick out of this.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Sara Broad

    "My Broken Language" by Quiara Alegria Hudes is a memoir about her home and family and how she makes sense of it all. Wow. This book is so beautiful that I found myself re-reading passages and savoring each page. This book is definitely in a league of its own, but I found a lot of parallels between this book and the themes and language that characterize Richard Blanco's work. I loved reading about Hudes' family and how she channels everything that surrounds her in her life - love, music, art, bo "My Broken Language" by Quiara Alegria Hudes is a memoir about her home and family and how she makes sense of it all. Wow. This book is so beautiful that I found myself re-reading passages and savoring each page. This book is definitely in a league of its own, but I found a lot of parallels between this book and the themes and language that characterize Richard Blanco's work. I loved reading about Hudes' family and how she channels everything that surrounds her in her life - love, music, art, books, spirituality, and language - into her own work. I really hope everyone enjoys this book as much as I did.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Bethany

    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. **I received an electronic ARC from the publisher via NetGalle 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. **I received an electronic ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.**

  5. 5 out of 5

    Laura Sackton

    Brilliant and beautiful. I loved every moment of this. Exuberant and thoughtful, so many gorgeously rendered moments. Hudes writes so brilliantly about language, the many kinds of languages, living between languages, the ways that language lodges in the body, and how language shapes the way we experience the world and ourselves. And also the way she writes about the women in her big Puerto Rican family--so much love, so many stories told. I love a family memoir and I loved the way this focuses o Brilliant and beautiful. I loved every moment of this. Exuberant and thoughtful, so many gorgeously rendered moments. Hudes writes so brilliantly about language, the many kinds of languages, living between languages, the ways that language lodges in the body, and how language shapes the way we experience the world and ourselves. And also the way she writes about the women in her big Puerto Rican family--so much love, so many stories told. I love a family memoir and I loved the way this focuses on her relationship with so many different women in her family: cousins, aunties, her grandma, sisters. Also everything in this about writing and art and music and being creative is just so good! I listened to the audiobook and it is OUTSTANDING, absolutley fantastic. Hudes reads it and there is just so much warmth, exuberance, pride, curiosity in her voice. Plus there's a ton of Spanish in this and I loved hearing it out loud. So many people and places come alive in this memoir--especially North Philly, but also rural Puerto Rico and suburban PA--and hearing the voices of those people and places in Hudes's voice was amazing. Cannot recommend enough.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Celeste Miller

    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 neighborhoo 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."

  7. 5 out of 5

    Juan Camilo

    Quiara Alegría Hudes's memoir might sound like the typical Latino family in the US. That is, of course, if you have Puerto Rican descent, animal sacrifices, "santería", Bach and salsa while growing up. Some of the situations and stories are typical from a Latin family, so it feels close to me. Especially with the narration, she really knows what she's doing and gets you there. After all, we're talking about a Pulitzer Prize winner and two-time finalist. A much needed voice. The story gets you de Quiara Alegría Hudes's memoir might sound like the typical Latino family in the US. That is, of course, if you have Puerto Rican descent, animal sacrifices, "santería", Bach and salsa while growing up. Some of the situations and stories are typical from a Latin family, so it feels close to me. Especially with the narration, she really knows what she's doing and gets you there. After all, we're talking about a Pulitzer Prize winner and two-time finalist. A much needed voice. The story gets you deep, whether you grew up in Philadelphia or not, even if you don't get Latino families at all... You will after this. Not to perfection, for that you'd need to be born in one. The book is beautiful, honest, poetic, painful and so much more. Her life is so rich in "magic realism", "santería", traditions and the division of two cultures, like every son or daughter of an immigrant family. Two languages mixed into one woman growing up in "el barrio", with a single "brown" mother and a middle name that means "happiness", but she doesn't feel Puerto Rican enough, nor American enough... Does it get more magical than that? I doubt it. The audiobook, narrated by the author, is a total delight. You feel everything with her voice: the emotion, the doubt, the pain, the happiness, how she learns to play the piano and the music becomes her language... To hear her is the perfect combination of a great book very hard to put down.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Amy

    This is an incredibly powerful book - highly recommend!

  9. 4 out of 5

    Ady

    I don’t rate nonfiction because I am unsure how to give a rating to something that is either information on which I am no expert or the telling of someone’s life, but if I just subjectively gave ratings to nonfiction books, I would give this one 5 stars. My Broken Language is a coming of age memoir by Quiara Alegria Hudes. It focuses on the confusion she faced with her personal identity while growing up in a barrio in Philadelphia with her Puerto Rican family and her own hardships and struggles. I don’t rate nonfiction because I am unsure how to give a rating to something that is either information on which I am no expert or the telling of someone’s life, but if I just subjectively gave ratings to nonfiction books, I would give this one 5 stars. My Broken Language is a coming of age memoir by Quiara Alegria Hudes. It focuses on the confusion she faced with her personal identity while growing up in a barrio in Philadelphia with her Puerto Rican family and her own hardships and struggles. There is a feeling of “home” in this story. I especially loved how the desire to tell the stories of the women she grew up with influenced her choice of profession. In short, this memoir is beautifully done. I believe that at some point in our lives, each of us somehow makes sense of our upbringing, home, and family and the various contradictions that exist therein. I very much enjoyed reading about how Quiara makes sense of her own background. The writing is smart and witty, and the story is one that made my heart ache. If you love memoirs, I highly recommend that you add this one to your personal library. CAWPILE Score: NA Star Rating: NA Pages: 336 Read in Print

  10. 5 out of 5

    Danna

    I wanted to like My Broken Language, 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 understand I wanted to like My Broken Language, 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 My Broken Language but it didn't work for me. Thank you to the author & publisher for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Christy MacCallum

    Wow. I was hesitant when I started this book - it was interesting but I wasn’t sold on it being a top book. But as I kept reading I became intrinsically hooked. I cannot lay claim to many shared experiences in the story - my life is vastly different, however, the seed of not being able to express yourself and who you are tied me to Quiara’s journey. Realizing that the things that we seek mastery of (music, language, dance, cooking, religion) and hide our brokenness of, are in fact mastered in the Wow. I was hesitant when I started this book - it was interesting but I wasn’t sold on it being a top book. But as I kept reading I became intrinsically hooked. I cannot lay claim to many shared experiences in the story - my life is vastly different, however, the seed of not being able to express yourself and who you are tied me to Quiara’s journey. Realizing that the things that we seek mastery of (music, language, dance, cooking, religion) and hide our brokenness of, are in fact mastered in their brokenness. Maybe it is just me pontificating and picking up ideas where they were not meant to be, but this book will stay with me as a catalyst for a lot of introspection to come.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Courtney Hatch

    I’ve been really excited about this book’s release, and that may have influenced my reading. This book is BEAUTIFULLY written, but I wish it had more organization. It is filled with rich images and passionate, personal anecdotes about growing up as a Puerto Rican in West Philly. It is clearly written by somebody who knows and loves her writing craft, but it felt unedited. If the chapters had been organized a little differently and given some loving pruning, it would be 👌

  13. 4 out of 5

    Tessa

    The language of this book is absolutely beautiful. I don't have words to describe it, but I was hooked from the first chapter. I loved reading about Hudes' family and her childhood and seeing how she interwove language, music, religion, art, and her family into each of her chapters. I was completely drawn into the book, and finished it entirely in one day. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone and everyone. The language of this book is absolutely beautiful. I don't have words to describe it, but I was hooked from the first chapter. I loved reading about Hudes' family and her childhood and seeing how she interwove language, music, religion, art, and her family into each of her chapters. I was completely drawn into the book, and finished it entirely in one day. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone and everyone.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Jenny M

    I'm a huge fan of "In The Heights," and it's fun to try to pick out the biographical elements from Hudes' life that may have made it into the script. However, I was hoping to read about the creative collaboration that led to the success of the stage show (and upcoming movie!), but this is not that book. LMM's name is not even mentioned. I'm a huge fan of "In The Heights," and it's fun to try to pick out the biographical elements from Hudes' life that may have made it into the script. However, I was hoping to read about the creative collaboration that led to the success of the stage show (and upcoming movie!), but this is not that book. LMM's name is not even mentioned.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Lizvette

    2.5 stars I tried to liked this book but I felt disconnected and lost. I enjoyed some of her personal memories and her poetic and bilingual written, but I struggled. She really has a beautiful talent as a writer but I didn’t care enough about the context. Her mom’s weird world between Yorubas and Orishas, are definitely not my cup of tea.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Maria

    The author's attention to detail influenced me to think of her family as family. Some of the paragraphs flowed like hip-hop and had fast starts and stops, but it was a beautiful story. I would recommend it. Best book I read in 2021. The author's attention to detail influenced me to think of her family as family. Some of the paragraphs flowed like hip-hop and had fast starts and stops, but it was a beautiful story. I would recommend it. Best book I read in 2021.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

    Beautiful. That word doesn’t do it justice. I’m thankful that there are writers and artists like her to tell these stories.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Erica

    I just did not connect to this story. I was never quite sure what the point of this was. It circled around a lot of ideas, but never quite landed on anything

  19. 5 out of 5

    Mel Ow

    This portrayal of a Puerto Rican and white female finding herself and her path in a complicated world was a interesting and twisted adventure. I am unsure if I liked it but it was worth reading.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Sue

    This book was so beautifully written, I read it slowly, to savor every word. Thank you to goodreads for an advance readers edition.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Stephen Chase

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. The best Spanglish book!!!

  22. 4 out of 5

    Marissa

    Give me am minute, I'm still feeling all of it. Give me am minute, I'm still feeling all of it.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Deirdre

    Lyrical, well written

  24. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer M.

    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 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

  25. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    Quiara's lyrical and poignant memoir hit close to home. My favorite memoir this year. Highly recommend. Quiara's lyrical and poignant memoir hit close to home. My favorite memoir this year. Highly recommend.

  26. 4 out of 5

    J. Harding

    This is an absolutely beautifully written memoir; I loved every line and it left me wanting more. Highly recommended.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Lupita Reads

  28. 4 out of 5

    Victoria

  29. 4 out of 5

    Andrea

  30. 4 out of 5

    Georgia McCullough

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