Customer Reviews for

How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

Pretty good

This novel is about a family that flees from the Dominican Republic to the U.S. In the foreign nation, the family tries to cope with racism and assimilate into American culture. I think the author, Julia Alvarez did a great job describing through interesting anecdotes, ...
This novel is about a family that flees from the Dominican Republic to the U.S. In the foreign nation, the family tries to cope with racism and assimilate into American culture. I think the author, Julia Alvarez did a great job describing through interesting anecdotes, the difficulties that the immigrants faced, and how they gradually became Americans. I think she was able to talk about incidents she put in her book so realistically because she immigragted to America in the 1960s from the Dominican Republic just like the characters in the book. Each chapter consists of one anecdote and some of them are very serious while others are humorous. This quality makes the book truly an enjoyable one to read. In a chapter entitled 'Snow' Alvarez talks about how a Dominican girl who just immigrated thought that white particles (snow) were from the explosion of a nuclear bomb. What happened seems very realistic because in the 1960s, there was still a threat of a nuclear bomb being dropped in the U.S. so students were being taught at school how to protect themselves. It shows how the Dominican girl was not completely an American yet even though she spoke English. I really liked this chapter because I had a similar experience. There were also serious parts in this book which I gained a lot from. In the chapter 'The Blood of the Conquistadores,' I learned about the political unrest in the Dominican Republic in the mid-1950s, which I previously had no knowledge about. It also helped me to understand why so many Dominicans immigrated to the U.S. during that time. The organization of the book was effective. It is written in reverse chronological order unlike most novels, which makes it unique. There was not much of a suspense because I already knew what happened when I read about the main characters anticipating an event. However, it was quite interesting to read what the characters wanted and expected after learning what actually happened. Reading about the event and then what happened before the event sometimes answered my questions as to why an event happened in such a manner. I also liked that the author wrote in different points of view. Since she wrote in the voices of the four girls, I felt much closer to the characters because it was as if the girls were talking to me. The different voices that Alvarez used for each of the four girls also added to their personalities. However, this novel has a couple weak points. It has so many characters that it is very hard to keep track of them all unless you pay really close attention. The author provides the readers with a lot of information on the characters, so for me it was hard to remember which of the Garcia girls did what. Also, the author calls Mr. Garcia several names including 'Papi' and 'Carlos' so it is easy to get confused and think they are different people. Furthermore, before reading this book, I had no knowledge of Spanish, so I was very bewildered by the numerous Spanish phrases and titles (for people) that were used. I would recommend this book to anyone who wants a book to read lightly because it doesn't contain difficult vocabulary and is fun to read. I think it would be more interesting for people who have had experiences in another culture as a foreigner because they would be able to relate at least a little bit to the main characters. I wouldn't suggest reading this book to find out how immigrants' lives were in general in th 1960s when they moved to America because it only provides the experiences of a single wealthy family that came from the Dominican Republic.

posted by Anonymous on May 16, 2005

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Most Helpful Critical Review

7 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents

I recently read the book "How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents" by Julia Alvarez. This book involved a family whose father, Papi, was part of the rebellion against the dictator of the Dominican Republic during the 1950's. When the father's actions put the rest of t...
I recently read the book "How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents" by Julia Alvarez. This book involved a family whose father, Papi, was part of the rebellion against the dictator of the Dominican Republic during the 1950's. When the father's actions put the rest of the family in more and more danger, it becomes necessary for them to move away from their beloved home to the scandalous United States of America.
The Garcia family has always been very conservative and traditional. When they move to the United States the mother, Mami, struggles to keep the four girls under control. She will find this to be an even larger challenge than expected when the young girls' peers are all more educated in sex and the body than she could ever have dreamed. As the story unwinds, we find these four girls, Carla, Sandra, Yolanda, and Sofia trying to break from their parents' old-fashioned ways.
The narrator rotates from Mami, Papi, Carla, Sandra, Yolanda, and Sofia as each tells us about a focal point in their adolescence and first experiences as Americans. Slowly, we learn more about each character as the stories are told, starting from their adulthood and as each page turns, moving back to their childhood in the Dominican.
"How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents" was a very confusing book that I did not enjoy. The switching of narrators with no warning or way of knowing who was talking until the chapter was half over left me flipping pages back and forth and re-reading things as I attempted to understand what was going on. For example the book begins with the narration of an author who is not actually experiencing the events she describes: "The old aunts lounge in the white wicker armchairs, flipping open their fans, snapping them shut" (Alvarez 3). The author continues to narrate as if looking in on her characters, until the fifth chapter where we suddenly switch randomly to Yolanda: "For a brief few giddy years, I was the one with the reputation among my sisters of being the wild one" (Alvarez 86).
Even more obnoxious than the random narration flops, was the fact that the stories in the book were unrelated. At one moment I would read about a character having a bad break up with her boyfriend, and just a few pages later I would read about troubles a character was having with her mental health. The only constant throughout the book were the characters, and it seemed as if the book should have been a collection of intriguing short stories, rather than a flowing novel. In conclusion, I would not recommend this book to anyone, and if looking for a window into a new culture I would suggest a story that has a clearer plot.

posted by 2435034 on December 16, 2009

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 20, 2003

    A book that provides the reader with pure enjoyment!

    This captivating story about a family rich in the Dominican culture illustrates the irreplaceable love of family and what it means to enjoy life. I haven't come across such a colorful, lively work in a long time!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 19, 2003

    A bit disappointing

    I read 'In the time of the butterflies' by Alvarez and really enjoyed the book, it's one of my favorites, so I thought I would love this book also, but was a little disapointed. It did not have much of a story line, but was still worth a read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 4, 2003

    A Superb Book About the Immigrant Experience

    How The Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents is truly a great masterpiece of fiction. It is a repetoir of 15 short stories about the Garcia Girls -- Carla, Sandra, Yolanda, and Sofia, and their experiences in life, from the pre-exile period in the Dominican Republic, to Yolanda's visit to the Island as an adult. This is a 'must-read' on book-lists about immigrants.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 10, 2003

    Appreciating dominican culture from 1st generation american

    Some comments have been made that Julia Alvarez does represent dominican culture properly, in the book How the Garcia girls lost their accents, because of the life of leisure that they lead. Well, that IS part of Dominican culture as well. And it shed good light at that. Anytime that there is mention or pictures of La Republica Dominicana, all we see is poverty and ignorance written in the faces of our people. Be happy that a fellow dominicana was able to bring out some good of our country to American readers, who prefer to travel to P.R., as if that is the only beautiful island in our caribbean. The only thing that I did not like in the story was some of the life choices of the sisters, as if the conflict of cultures, made them confused as to choosing better lives morally. I was in the same predicament and choose to lead a more morally upstanding life. And that was done, not by focusing so much on what made our cultures so different, but how they can compliment each other, for our bilinngual benefit.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 26, 2002

    Not what I expected...

    The book was kind of boring. To tell the truth, the only reason I was inetersted in the book was because it had to do with Dominicans and I'm Dominican. I think that Julia didnt depict DR that well. Also, since the girls came from a rich family in DR, true Dominican life wasnt really shown. The book bored me at times. It really had no plot, or story line or conflict. It was just the girls telling different experiences they had in DR and in America. The book was OK. It's good to read it if you have some free time.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 11, 2002

    Engrossing!

    How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents by Julia Alvarez is a lovely tale of the Garcia family¿s struggle migrating from their country to the United States. The story recounts the adventures of the four Garcia girls and their parents while in their country as well as after their arrival in the U.S. The book is not so much about the migration process as it is about the family unity and love that binds us all. I recommend this book to everyone especially those whose family is an integral part of their lives.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 3, 2002

    'How the Garcia Lost Their Accents '

    ¿How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents¿ is a collection of short stories written by Julia Alvarez. Alvarez brings us the story of the four Garcia sisters, who are exiled from the Dominican Republic and have to start their lives over in the United States. The transition of the story is narrated in reverse beginning with the present and ending with the past. I was deeply involved in the girl¿s journey to adjust to the culture shock of living in America. On the other hand, I think the girls¿ characters could have been developed more. Some of the chapters were a little bit boring too. Alvarez has a writing style that not everyone can appreciate. This style in which this book was written is unique and refreshing. I enjoyed reading this book and would recommend it to anyone.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 30, 2002

    Wonderful Book

    I found ¿How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents¿ very interesting. What amazed me the most about this book is how it begins, by telling the story from the latest to the earliest stages in the four Garcia girls¿ lives. I couldn¿t help but feel compassion and sadness to every character in this book. The four girls and their mother were always so sad and depressed; and the fact that the entire family had to leave their country is enough reason to be sad and depressed. I give this book five stars because unlike the many books that I¿ve read in regards to Hispanic Americans and immigration, I can relate a great deal to all four girls. Julia Alvarez did a wonderful and creative job in this book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 1, 2002

    Family Values

    It's been a while since I actually cared or even related to characters in a story, as I do for the Garcia family. In this nostalgic display of stories about a family coming to terms with an unlikely loss. Resembling as a T.V. show you would almost find on HBO. This wonderfully written novel reflects the ever-changing attitudes of a family coping with the loss of nationality and identity. It took me while to really get into it but after the 1st ten pages you get the sense of the dark humor and drama these sister's encounter during turbulent and chaotic times. Alvarez displays each character with almost diverse array of emotions. If you're in a mood for Six Feet Under type of drama without the dead bodies and the embalming fluid this is a must read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 30, 2002

    Very detailed

    How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accent is a detailed account of the Garcia family's sudden transition from the Dominican Republic to New York. Julia Alvarez cleverly allows the reader to see each characters point-of-view and derive how they each feel about this transition. You get the feeling that you are right there with the Garcia family.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 14, 2002

    MDCC - LIT 2480 (online Student)

    The book ¿How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents¿ by Julia Alvarez is definitely a best seller. This book is not shy of any difficult or uneasy situation a normal family may experience. It keeps it real and tells it all about a Dominican family that moves to the United States. The Garcia family is a well-known family in the Dominican Republic, but like many other immigrants, they migrate due to political reasons. Any reader, regardless of race, will experience the events thru the author and will understand this family¿s search to fit in. The Garcia family is trying to get comfortable in this new setting and at the same time reinventing themselves or finding their new identity. The author¿s words literately allow you to imagine the exact setting and sit in on every scene.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 18, 2002

    An Excellent Book

    The story is about four sisters trying to cope with the assimilation process to a new culture,fleeing repression they find themselves arriving in New York as new inmmigrants from the Dominican Republic, a whole new set of challenges lay ahead of them. The author takes you deep into all the details of their adult life and once you are fully familiar with Fifi, Carla, and Yo, Julia Alvares in a very unique approach takes you on a journey back in time to their childhood life, giving the story a whole new perspective from which to draw new conclusions, entertaining and well written.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 17, 2002

    Great Novel

    Cheddy Mendez LIT 2480 at MDCC, July 11, 2002 Great Novel Christina Garcia¿s ¿Dreaming in Cuban¿ illustrates a family style of life transformed under different circumstances. The novel covers the beliefs of the family¿s political views and their religious beliefs. Although the novel is basically about the family and how they adapt to the world they live in each character in the story has their very own eccentric behavior. Only Pilar and her grandmother Celia share a unique bond between them that carries strong throughout the story. During their life the characters provide several indications that they are not in the right state of mind and experience and do bizarre things when physical and emotion atmosphere changes. The book briefly tells the history of how life in Cuba was under a very strict communist government. The characters experience mixed emotions between their stays at Cuba, New York, and Miami. This book is extremely well written and was easier to relate to because my family is from that generation.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 16, 2002

    Cheddy Mendez Mdcc student LIT2480

    This novel by Julia Garcia is great because it reveals real life situations and how a Dominican family adapts to life in the United States of America after basically being raised in their homeland. The story mostly consists of four sisters, (Carla, Sandi, Yolanda, and Fifi) and their parents Carlos and Laura. The adjustment for the family was relatively harsh, due to the fact that they came from having everything in their homeland to basically trying to survive in this new environment they now tried to call their new home. The novel is very interesting since it is not narrated in chronological order so it makes the reader further analyze the story and put it together after finishing the book. Coming from a Hispanic family and being able to relate to these kinds of situations makes the story more interesting in my eyes. The novel is excellent and is a great paperback for any reader¿s collection.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 22, 2002

    MDCC Hispanic Literature Online Summer

    ¿How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents¿ by Julia Alvarez is the collection of fifteen interlacing stories written in reverse chronology which narrate the lives of four sisters: Yolanda, Sandi, Carla, Sofia, and their parents, Laura and Carlos. The Garcia sisters along with their parents are exiled from the Dominican Republic. They move to the United States and settle in New York City. In the Dominican Republic the Garcias were considered upper class, with the father a Doctor and their family related to political figures. However, in New York they become a lower class immigrant family and are faced with new environment and culture having their worlds turned upside down. It is in the 1960s that the sisters find themselves struggling to blend with the ¿American Mainstream.¿ This book takes you through the trials and tribulations of growing up in an immigrant large family as you experience the four girls being color coded for convenience by their mother, Fifi trying to smoke in the bathroom with the shower running, Carla wanting to experiment with hair removal cream, Carla¿s encounters with a pervert on the way home from school, and Sandi watching her father getting hit on by a woman other than her mother. This book was very entertaining. It gave me insight not only about history but also about cultural views. The girls¿ journey was difficult as they were being raised in the United States by Hispanic parents with conservative views. The girls were expected to live by the Old World rules, and as you discover by reading the book, this made for the girls turning to rebellion, each in their own way, making for great ¿can¿t put the book down¿ type of reading. What I enjoyed most about the book is the flashback format. It is one of the most sophisticated writing styles. I find this writing style difficult to follow but Julia Alvarez¿s use of creativity created a magnificent piece of work.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 22, 2002

    Must Read

    The book, How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accent is a must read. The pages are filled with new beginnings, compassion, personal losses, hope and the importance of one¿s identity. The book tells about the life of a prominent family in Santo Domingo and what they give up and overcome when moving to New York. The greatness of this book comes from the strong sense of family and how they are able to overcome so many barriers by sticking together. This book relates to the processes of growing up and dealing with change. Each of the four sisters has a unique personality, which lets the readers be able to relate to at least one of them in the 15 interrelated stories. I would recommend this book to anyone, especially someone who might be going through a significant change as a reminder of hope and endless possibilities.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 16, 2002

    How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents

    This great novel shows the metamorphosis a Hispanic family goes through when immigrating to this country. Adults are always trying to keep the traditions alive while the children are trapped between two very different cultures. This is a story everyone can learn from. Non- Hispanics will understand us more and Hispanics will be reading parts of their own lives.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 15, 2002

    INTENSE!

    An intense book about the experience of every new immigrant coming to the U.S. A poetic and moving story of a family with four girls trying to fit in and not lose their identity.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 29, 2002

    Great book!

    How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents is a great book. Anyone who has mixed cultures can identify with this story about leaving one country for the US and later returning to see everything in a totally different way. It shows how 'Americanization' plays a part in this familie's personalities.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 5, 2002

    Amusing and Delightful Collection of Stories.

    Judy Ballam, MDCC Hispanic Literature HOW THE GARCIA GIRLS LOST THEIR ACCENTS. The affluent life of Dr. Garcia, his wife and four daughters comes to an abrupt end when they must flee the Dominican Republic with just a little more than the clothes on their back. No one had prepared them for what life in the United States would be like. Each Garcia girl begins her story as an adult and moves backward in time. Their struggles as sisters, immigrants, non-English speakers, and against their parents¿ traditional values is told in a delightful dialogue. Leaving friends, family, possessions, prestige and wealth behind on the island for American citizenship is not an easy choice for the Garcia girls. As they adapt to life in the United States, Alvarez superbly develops the complexity of each character. A strong flavor of Dominican culture and realism in her collection of these narrated stories makes reading about their lives amusing and entertaining.

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