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?