Book of the Month: How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents
On Cultural Identity, Feminism, and Language
Algoquin Books Edition
It’s no secret that the Latino diaspora not only affects the immigrant’s immediate reality, but also affects their spiritual and emotional well-being. It’s a wave so monumental that it still comes crashing into the lives of immigrants’ children as first generation success stories begin to unravel. It’s an existential crisis many of us, the children, have experienced and managed to somewhat control. It’s about being half and half, with the occasional rejection from either side.
Julia Alvarez’s How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents is a foray into this world. It follows the stories of “the four daughters” (Carla, Sandra, Yolanda, and Sofia), and not an occasional glimpse into their parent’s life. The author plays with chronological order, shrinking back to the start of it all, the nucleus of this life story. First published in 1991, this novel was the start of Alvarez’s popularity, particularly dealing with themes such as biculturalism and bilingualism. Although the chapters had appeared as short stories in magazines before, Alvarez had a hard time getting the manuscript published. After its publication, the book won the PEN Oakland/Josephine Miles Book Award (1991) and the American Library Association named it a notable book (1992). Now, many middle schools and high schools in the U.S. include this novel in their book list for its humour and resonating narrative.
Synopsis: The family leaves the Dominican Republic, as the country escalates towards political upheaval and revolution. Unlike many immigrant families that run away from poverty and violence, the Garcia family take great pride in their name and leave for political reasons. However, as they arrive in the U.S. they find their just another family making a living, minus the privilege their had before. They struggle with growing up as girls under an authoritative or “traditional” father; confront the limitations of learning English; find ways to communicate their desires and goals to both their Dominican family and their American partners.
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We will be posting a couple of discussion questions, but always we welcome and encourage your ideas as well!