Sunday, February 27, 2011

How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents by Julia Alvarez


This novel shows the struggles of finding one's identity in relation to one's family and heritage. The Garcia family leaves the Dominican Republic for their own safety when their father is targeted by the politicians in power. The four Garcia sisters, Carla, Sandra, Yolanda, and Sofia, must adjust to their new, lower economic status in New York after living a fairly high class life in the Dominican Republic. They also had to adjust culturally, with many people around their new home making derogatory statements because the family is of Hispanic descent. All the daughters deal with different issues throughout their life. Carla wanted to be a writer, though her father deemed this an inappropriate career for a woman and even tore up her valedictorian speech the night before graduation because he found it disrespectful. She becomes a psychologist and begins analyzing her family's many mental problems. Yolanda, also known as Yo, Yoyo, and Joe, had trouble relating to men, which caused her divorce, and she eventually suffered a mental breakdown during which she wouldn't form an original sentence, only quoted, sometimes incorrectly, things she had previously heard. After her divorce and mental breakdown, she returned to the Dominican Republic, where she finds that she feels more comfortable speaking English than Spanish and she realizes she is generally more comfortable identifying as American than Dominican. As the youngest daughter, Sofia only has vague memories of the Dominican Republic. She also has the most openly hostile relationship with her father as she continually challenges the double standards involving gender and sexuality of Dominican/Hispanic culture by embracing American attitudes toward relationships and sex. She eventually elopes and has children with a German man.
1) This novel is told in reverse chronological order. At the beginning, the reader gets to know the adult Garcia girls who are more comfortable speaking English than Spanish and who consider themselves to be American. As the book progresses, the reader sees the struggles of the Garcias when they were younger and learning English and American culture. Do you think this says something about the experiences of immigrants? Why do you think Alavarez chose to write the book this way?
2) There are a couple recurring types of conflicts (men vs. women, Dominican vs. American, younger generation vs. older) in this novel. Which do you think would be the most challenging to deal with or overcome?

9 comments:

JessieW 11-12 said...

2) I think the most challenging would be the Dominican vs. American. The cultures are just so different in both countries, so i think it would be hard to understand eachother, making the conflict hard to resolve.

Amanda Z. 11-12 said...

1. I think the author wanted you as the reader to be able to understand the girls and how they grow up to be, knowing they'll be alright and then getting to the grittier details of how they got there and how strong they are.
2. I think that Dominican v American would probably be the most difficult to overcome because both cultures are so completely different and also so far removed from one another. The people keep their distance from each other and it isn't often when there is intermingling with the two.

Kaitlyn H 11-12 said...

2) I think that younger generation vs. older generation is the most challenging to deal with because the younger people's thoughts always get thrown aside and aren't respected while the older generation can be stubborn as they stand by their beliefs and they don't keep an open mind to what other people may think. Also, this isn't even really a conflict to overcome because older people generally have authority over younger people, so what they say goes. Younger people don't even have a chance.

Courtney R 5-6 said...

1) I think this shows that immigrants are very strong people and may be able to over come many things in their lives. They consider themselves to be American but did not always see it that way. This shows the progression of their lives and that it was a struggle to get to where they are in the beginning of the book. People may think that some have it easy, but in reality, they aren't told the whole story from the beginning. I think the author wrote it this way to show that things aren't always easy, like they may seem at first.

McKenzieM 11-12 said...

I think that the most challenging to overcome would have to be Dominican vs. American. We have such a bad perception of different cultures. Most Americans disrespect and have an automatic feeling of superiority over people who don't know their language.

Emily C. 13-14 said...

I think that Dominican vs. American would be the most difficult to overcome because mist people are arrogant and believe that their ways and culture are the right ways and refuse to aknowledge other cultures or ways of life so they always feel superior to other ethnicities and think that those people should change to be like them.

Ashley A. 11-12 said...

I agree that the most challenging one would be the Dominican vs. American not only because of the cultural differences and prejudices but also because that plays a large part in the girls' conflict with their parents because the girls, as adults, identify so strongly with American culture while their parents are still firmly Dominican.

I also think that Alveraz uses the reverse chronogical telling of the story to show that no matter how well adjusted or acclimated a person seems now, you never know what they went through to get there and what made them who they are.

CorinneS5/6 said...

The reverse chronological order is used to introduce the characters and then go back and explain why they are the way they are. Its is also good because the reader starts the story by seeing the sisters as americans and therefore sees them as an outsider would but can also see the internal conflicts. The most difficult obstacle would be the younger vs. older because it is very difficult to step out of the traditonal family path and go in your own direction like this younger generation does.

Mrs. Sherwood said...

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