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One Book One NY: Some Girls -- Bird of Paradise by Raquel Cepeda

Interview with Raquel Cepeda

About Some Girls

Some Girls

A documentary film directed and written by Raquel Cepeda

Some Girls explores issues of identity within the Latina-American community by focusing on a group of troubled teenage girls in a Bronx-based suicide prevention program who feel rejected by mainstream America, but are transformed through an exploration of their roots. In the course of the film, shot over a four-year period, they use ancestral DNA testing to discover their ancestry and, in doing so, begin to rethink what and how they've been taught about history. Following the ancestral DNA testing, the girls embark on an expedition to learn more about themselves based on the results. On a trip to the Dominican Republic, the seat of the Americas, they explore issues of social justice, ethnic studies, real American history, identity, and belonging. Throughout the course of the film the girls are encouraged to rethink what a decolonized history looks like, recasting the telling while challenging the status quo. The participants are transformed, and, through them, the audience is challenged to rethink what it truly means to be an American while engaging with an underserved and marginalized community.

About Bird of Paradise

"Abandoned by her mother, raised in Harlem by her violent father, Cepeda felt estranged from her family, except for fond memories of her grandparents in the Dominican Republic and her own intriguing image in the mirror. The hints of African and Indio she saw in the mirror were reflected in dreams as well, as spiritual guides occasionally made themselves felt at crucial times in her life. When her father suffered a near-fatal heart attack, Cepeda overcame her animus and spent a year searching for her tangled roots. Through DNA testing, she found the complexity of Hispanic heritage, a blend of indigenous Caribbeans (whose bloodlines were thought to be extinct), Africans, Amazigh, and European. Cepeda details painful memories of her highly dysfunctional family and the crushing adjustments of immigrants to an American culture that imposes race and ethnic categories in ways that defy history and the cultures of other nations. 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 postracial society." 

Vanessa Bush, Booklist

About Raquel Cepeda

"Born to Dominican parents in Harlem, and raised in Washington Heights during the early 80s when hip-hop was in a state of becoming, Cepeda is no stranger to battling adversity. From surviving a crime-ridden neighborhood to standing resilient in an abusive household, she details in her 2013 memoir Bird of Paradise: How I Became Latina her roots through ancestral DNA.

Cepeda has lent her editorial wizardry to And It Don't Stop: The Best American Hip Hop Journalism of the Last 25 Years, and has served as Editor-in-Chief at the now-defunct One World Magazine by Russell Simmons. Shes also penned for biggie publications like The Village Voice and The New York Times, among many others.

Her film credits include a documentary titled Bling: A Planet Rock, which tells the story of how hip-hops flashy lifestyle played a role in the 10-year civil war that took place in Sierra Leone, West Africa."

Richy Rosario, VIBE

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