How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents

by Julia Alvarez

Paperback, 1991





Plum/Penguin (1991), 290 pages


In the 1960s, political tension forces the García family away from Santo Domingo and towards the Bronx. The sisters all hit their strides in America, adapting and thriving despite cultural differences, language barriers, and prejudice. But Mami and Papi are more traditional, and they have far more difficulty adjusting to their new country. Making matters worse, the girls--frequently embarrassed by their parents--find ways to rebel against them.

User reviews

LibraryThing member edwin.gleaves
Another "sister" story, this one about life in the Dominican Republic and the United States, told, interestingly enough, in reverse chronological order. See also In the Time of the Butterflies.
LibraryThing member hvaluet
This book can be a bit challenging for youth with its constant flash backs and flash forwards in the characters' lives. However, this unique style of writing gives the book a character and quality that makes it interesting. This story about four sisters coping with and adapting to a new culture in America when they are forced to flee their home in the Dominican Republic due to political reasons is a touching and dramatic portrayal of family ties and coming of age. I would recommend this book for students who enjoy historical and/or multicultural fiction.… (more)
LibraryThing member schrader.jill
I did not enjoy this book as much as Alvarez' In the Time of the Butterflies. This book tells the story of the Garcia family and their four daughters as they flee the Dominican Republic and move to the U.S. The book jumps around in time, and I think that maybe it was this aspect that I liked the least.
LibraryThing member grheault
Cute, quick, fun story about four sisters who came to the USA with their Mom and Dad around 1961 in the time of Trujillo in the D.R. You don't quite get that this is a patrician immigration story, political versus economic refugees, until the real story comes out towards the end. In any case, the sisterhood aspect is a hoot, mom and dad are characters, and the effect of having such an upended life in two countries is common to many immigrants rich and poor. Post-Trujillo times when it became safe to go back and forth between the DR and NYC sets up a whole new set of conflicts, emotions, that lead you to imagine the sequel with the tios and tias and cousins in communal craziness that makes the Kennedy clan look a little quiet.… (more)
LibraryThing member capncait
Alvarez's novel delves into the American immigrant experience from the perspective of four sisters. The innovative narrative is in reverse chronological order, beginning at present day with a deracinated adult woman returning to a now foreign Dominican Republic, and traces back to the family's flight from their homeland. Through this four narrators, Alvarez explores the challenges presented by conflicts of race, class, and ethnicity, juxtaposing the girl's experiences in both the United States and the Dominican Republic.… (more)
LibraryThing member sanguinity
Collection of reverse-chronological short stories about four daughters who emigrated from the Dominican Republic to the U.S. after their father was suspected of participating in a CIA-mediated political coup.

It's well-written and an engaging read, and there are particular images and moments that have stayed with me. Yet I also felt very neutral about it -- not a lot of staying power for me.… (more)
LibraryThing member PAUlibrary
This story of four sisters who must adjust to life in America after having to flee from the Dominican Republic is told through a series of episodes beginning in adulthood, when their lives have been shaped by U. S. mores, and moving backwards to their wealthy childhood on the island.
LibraryThing member anterastilis
It seemed wierd to me that although I enjoyed this book, I never got around to writing a review for it. It is almost three months since I created this entry, and I see it whenever I browse the page - but never have anything to say about it.

Perhaps that is the most accurate message I can send about this book. It was good, it was enjoyable. The characters were well developed and the author did a good job capturing the world the Garcia Girls lived in: growing up in the Dominican Republic and moving to NYC; the process of becoming "American Girls" and the struggles that each family member had with their identities. But it didn't stick. It didn't haunt me or make me sit back and wonder about it. I don't go through my daily life and come across things that remind me of it.

It might have one thing I remember and will reference in the future - it is written in short chapters, starting with the most recent and going back to the 1960's in the Dominican Republic. That was an interesting way to write the book - but after every chapter I was left with questions that I knew would never get answered. That was frustrating.
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LibraryThing member Desiree9
How the Garcia Girls Lost Their accents is a book with a series of short stories that recounts the lives of four Dominican-American sisters—Carla, Sandra, Yolanda, and Sofia. It describes the families struggles as they try to adjust to their new american life without loosing their dominican tradition and heritage. It talks about the womens battles with trying to keep their language and staying loyal to their father.… (more)
LibraryThing member jpsnow
This is one of those rare occasions where I just don't get what everyone else sees. For me, the story would be easier to understand through more distinct short stories, rather than the Cubist approach Alvarez uses. The story certainly does convey some of the cultural nuances of the Dominican Republic, but I found even this to be overkill in places. For example, in one passage, she includes a series of malapropisms used by one of the main characters who had migrated to the US. There were so many that they started to seem unreal. I've read a reasonable diversity of cultures and gender emphasis. This just didn't work for me.… (more)
LibraryThing member 05marry
Well not to long ago did I finish reading this book.I got to say it is a joyfull story.This story is based upon how a young lady loses her accent.It talks about there history as young little girls and there good/bad moments.It is a hipanic book but not only does the cover catch your eye but the story as well.It talks about her antojo,kiss,and much more.… (more)
LibraryThing member Kellyn7486
The story is a backwards look at generations. It tries too hard to be The Joy Luck Club and doesn't go deep enough.
LibraryThing member elsyd
For me, this was a book with no beginning and no end. It did have sections that were entertaining, and a couple of lines that were memorable. Not a book I would really recomend.
LibraryThing member morganallen
This book was okay. The auther did a good job switcihing back and forth from present tense to past tense. Overall a good book.
LibraryThing member isabelx
The story of the four Garcia de la Torre sisters whose family left the Dominican Republic to live in New York. They gradually get over their home-sickness, but even as adults they are unsure whether they have lost more than they have gained. I liked the way it was written, going backwards in time starting with their adult life in New York and ending up with them as small children on the island.

Poignant and very enjoyable.
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LibraryThing member heaward
This book was good, but the conclusion wasn't very satisfying (or conclusive, if you will). It tells the story of a family with four daughters who emigrated from the Dominican Republic to the U.S. The tale moves backwards in time, expanding your understanding as it goes of how they ended up being who they are. It was most interesting to me when I reached the description of their childhood on the island.… (more)
LibraryThing member JulianaTorres
The part of her heritage that she chose to explore is the Polish side, stemming from her mother. Her grandmother is second generation Polish. She was born in America in the year 1920. Her great grandparents were born in Poland and immigrated to America in the year 1909. Through the stories her grandmother has shared with her, she have come to understand that her great grandparents were very proud and cultured people. During the interview she had with her for this project, her grandmother told her that it was almost as though she grew up in Poland because her parents tried to maintain as many traditions and customs from Poland as they could without being persecuted for them. But In How the Garcia girls lost their accents by Julia Alvarez learns that the challenges of immigration are difficult and families most often make adjustments. The interpersonal conflict within the Garcia family takes root during the point of political and cultural rupture when they family had to leave the Dominican republic.

In this novel, set in the Dominican Republic, the Garcia girl’s father is over protected projective and how the Garcia girls matured over the time. “She has been too frightened to carry out any strategy, but now a road is opening up before her. She clasps her hands on her chest she can feel her pounding heart and nods. Then, as if the admission itself loosens her tongue, she begins to speak, English, a few words, of apology at first, then a great flood of explanation” Carla, the oldest Garcia sister, had the most difficulty adjusting to school and the English language. After the move to the United States she grew up to be a psychologist. Sandra, the second oldest of the daughters, Sandi felts stifled and frustrated as a child, and lost her artistic vision after she suffered a broken arm. She had mental breakdowns as an adult. Yolanda the rebellious tomboy of the family in the Dominican Republic, though once in the United States she developed into a poet. Her difficulties with men and painful divorce led her into a mental breakdown as well. Sofia the youngest daughter of the Garcia family is wild and rebellious streak came out during her adolescence, when she challenged her father’s authority and ran away to Germany to marry Otto
The four Garcia sisters, Carla, Sandra, Yolanda and Sofia, enjoyed a fairly she here’d and luxurious child hood in the Dominican Republic. They often received exciting presents from fao Schwarz in the United States. Carla remembers an iron bank representing Mary ascending to heaven which she gave to one of the family maids, who was later dismissed for sleeting the bank. Yolanda played with her boy cousin and showed him genitals in exchange for a human body coil and modeling clay. She also stole a new born kitten from its mother and put it inside a drum that she played until she grew bored and threw the kitten outside, where it sadly hobbled away. The mother cat appeared to her in nightmares and haunted her. Sandra wanted to be an artist but her irrepressible spirit got her in trouble and she was thrown out of art class. She later came upon a naked chained insane sculptor who scared her as she fell and broke her arm she lost her artistic vision and settled for being the sculptors muse when she realized he has used her face in a
representation of the Virgin Mary.

Yolanda was the tomboy of the family and got herself into trouble as a child. She is haunted by the memory of a kitten that she kidnapped from its mother, as well as the fear she felt as the family struggled to leave the Dominican Republic. Once in the United States, she had difficulty interacting with men in sexual and romantic situations, and eventually divorced her husband, John. This heartbreak led to a mental breakdown and the inability to use language in a meaningful way. This was a particularly traumatic experience since language was a particularly important part of her life as a poet. She returned to the Dominican Republic after her divorce in order to reconnect to her cultural roots, though she finds she has forgotten her Spanish and sticks out culturally. “When faced with a challenging situation, such as car trouble at night in the middle of nowhere, she feels most comfortable in her identity as an English speaking American woman, rather than a Dominican immigrant”, She is the sister who most enjoys taking on the role of storyteller, and she hopes to unfold the past to better understand the trauma that underlies the various struggles of the entire family.
Yolanda is the third and most imaginative of the four girls. She is a school teacher, poet and a writer. The nick names she had represented her personality, consist of “Joe”, “yosita”, and simply “yo”. The reason why they called her yo is because is Spanish is simply I. yoyo represented the toy that it represented her jumping from culture to culture finally the reason why they called her Joe is how they will call Yolanda in English. Her nicknames make her look more developed on how her personality is.

In the novel how the Garcia girls lost their accent I leaned many things and somehow I can connect with the book myself. When the book discuss of how the Garcia family moved to the United States from the Dominican Republic. “There are still times I wake up at three a clock in the morning and peer into the darkens. At that hour and in that loneliness, I hear her, a black furred thing lurking in the corners of my life her magenta mouth opening, waling over some violation that lies at the center of my art” this novel can connect to me because as having an experience from moving from our place to another and can cause many problems. That the way it connects to my life.
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LibraryThing member Beamis12
I found parts of this book very amusing but parts of it irritated me also Found the going back and forth confusing at times and found the four sisters, in parts, almost sounded the same. I think I was missing a depth of character that I needed to see and only had brief glimpses of in Yolanda. I think my favorite characte5r was the mother and all her stories.… (more)
LibraryThing member dele2451
Four young sisters and their parents flee the corrupt regime ruling their small Caribbean island and relocate in the US. In separate chapters the four sisters, now a psychologist, an artist, a poet and a young mother, recount memories from their early years on the island and their sometimes harsh transition into American society. The chapters are interesting on their own and almost take on the flare of short essays, but digesting the book as a whole feels a little like reading through a strobe light. Although you know action is happening between the flashes, you only get glimpses of brilliance with dark spaces in between. Overall, the book was enjoyable and I'm sure many young women, especially immigrants, would relate to Alvarez' work, but I have to say I feel it could have been so much more. Bottom Line: Good, but not great.… (more)
LibraryThing member evanroskos
More than just a novel about immigrating (and returning home) -- this is a literary exploration of language and family and identity.
LibraryThing member jlapac
I liked the idea of this book as well as the descriptions. I thought there were a lot of unanswered questions and it makes me wonder if there are other books that tell the rest of the story. Perhaps the whole point of the book was the family stories continue on and on with no end, that the stories we tell to illustrate our lives wax and wane and change as they are retold until you can't tell what actually happened.… (more)
LibraryThing member sraimone
This booked dragged on and on forever it seemed. If I was capable of throwing a book out before finishing it, I would have. Unfortunately I finish every book I ever start, no matter how painful it is.
LibraryThing member heike6
Some parts were better than others. It would be good for someone who has no idea of life in the Dominican Republic and what it is like in America for Dominican Americans.
LibraryThing member csweder
This book had potential to be great...but didn't really make it...
LibraryThing member csweder
This book had potential to be great...but didn't really make it...



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