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 2, 2013

    Lol

    I hate it i dont understand it

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 9, 2013

    Awful!

    I also did not enjoy this book. The constantly changing point-of-view is confusing and there seems to be no real plot, just a mishmash of stories. Don't waste your time!




    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 19, 2004

    Who Is She Writing About

    This is the problem with 'ethnic' texts, they bear the responsibility of overrespresentation. Today, dominicans are migrating in high numbers, and are not living the lives in the U.S. found in this book. Julia Alvarez, while claims Dominican, does not write the typical immigrant experience. In using a venue of such mass appeal, one must make this clear. We cannot forget that there are readers who are not familiar with the tragic stories of Dominican migrants, and will use this text to form their opinion of the matter. This is not to silence Julia Alvarez, but what I am asking is the recognition of her responsibility of differentiating her fiction from our reality. Julia Alvarez, might have lost her accent, but the 1.1. million Dominicans living in the United States might beg to differ.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 6, 2002

    A DREADFULLY BORING BOOK THAT NEGLECTS TO MENTION MAJOR PROBLEMS IN DOMINICAN CULTURE

    Julia Alvarez's How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents is a badly written book in many ways: sentence structure is difficult to follow, and she writes in translation: she is thinking in Spanish and doing a bad translation into English. As a native speaker of Spanish, I spotted countless errors in translation in which the meaning becomes obscured. She neglects to mention the issues of class and race. In Dominican culture, persons of African descent, with kinky hair and skin as dark as Wesley or Denzel or darker, face more discrimination in the D.R. than they do in the U.S. Also, the sharp class divisions mean that while the Alvarez family has maids and tutors, the average Dominican is living on near-starvation wages and is barely literate. I was very disappointed in the book and believe the popularity was due to the fact that the book was fluff. Alvarez does not challenge the reader to think about difficult issues. Writing a book about the Dominican experience without delving into problems of race and class is like writing a book about Gay men without mentioning the A.I.D.S plague or writing a book about the Civil Rights Movement without mentioning Martin Luther King. Those of us who are people of color cannot avoid thinking about race. However, people of European descent CHOOSE whether to think about race, whether to care about the inequities that exist due to racial prejudice. In the D.R., Alvarez is white. And if you read the book, you will see that she chose not to think about race. She chose the safe route.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 10, 2010

    Disappointing, for its intended purpose

    My son was assigned this book for "required" reading at school. I had hoped there would be more reading of the classics in freshman year, but I presume this was a book geared toward learning about diversity.

    My son reported that most of his peers were not impressed with the book and its strange and brutal ending. I find it odd that educational institutions continue to push books with brutal or haunting imagery to kids (e.g. Steinbeck's The Pearl, another required read in middle school) under the umbrella of educational learning. My son really doesn't like these kinds of novels. He finds them disturbing, but perhaps he's not desensitized to violence as many teens are these days.

    Since I have not read the book, I can only say that my son did not like it. Sorry - an educational opportunity lost because it was just too edgy.

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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