How The Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents Part One
Introduction & Overview of How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents
Julia Alvarez's first novel, the semi-autobiographical How the Garda Girls Lost Their Accents, gamed generally favorable reviews and brought her work to the attention of a wide group of critics and readers. Most reviewers praise the novel's exploration of a Dominican-American family's struggle with assimilation and the resulting clash between Hispanic and American cultures. The novel's collection of fifteen short stones relates, in reverse chronological order, the experiences of the de la Torre-Garcia family: patriarch Carlos papi , mother Laura Mami , and their four daughters-Carla, Sandra, Yolanda, and Sofia. The stories begin in With Yolanda's visit to her native country, the Dominican Republic, and work backward to , before the family immigrated to New York City. The years in between are filled with the difficult process of acculturation for all members of the family. Donna Rifkind, in the New York Times Book Review, writes that Alvarez has "beautifully captured the threshold experiences of the new immigrant, where the past is not yet a memory and the future remains an anxious dream. She shows how the tensions of successes and failures don't have to tear families apart.
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The novel's major themes include acculturation and coming of age. Although it is told from alternating perspectives there is particular focus throughout the text on the character of Yolanda, who is said to be both the protagonist and the author's alter ego. The years between and were a period of oppression and instability in the Dominican Republic as the dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo came to an end with his assassination in , only to be followed by military rule, revolution, intervention by the United States, and further dictatorship. Central control over the military, the economy, and the people meant that only a select few were allowed to leave the island. After her parents' failed attempt at a life in America, she returned to the Dominican Republic at the age of three months as her parents preferred the dictatorship of Trujillo to the US. Clearly in the novel, this is not the case, however throughout, the reader witnesses the Garcia family assimilate into American society.