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 December 16, 2009

    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 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.

    7 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 14, 2010

    How The Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents Book Review

    The title of the book I read is, "How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents", and is written by Julia Alvarez. The theme is culture clash. It has to do with the changes the four girls (Carla, Sandi, Yolanda, Fifi) go through when they move to America. Their conservative Latin ways of life clashes with the fast paced, non-conservative American style of living. This theme is incorporated a lot throughout the book because when Yolanda was in college, she didn't know much about American slang, her morals were different than Americans, and she acted differently than Americans. She acted differently because of her culture and where she grew up (Dominican Republic). The main character is Yolanda (yoyo for short). I think she is the main character because out of the whole family, she is talked about most throughout the whole book. Julia wrote mostly about Yolanda, with in-depth descriptions of her relationship struggles, her thought process about her move to America, and what she thought of people. She doesn't play a very important part, I don't think any of the girls do, but I think without her in the story, and it wouldn't be as interesting. Her life was always filled with the most drama, at one point she gets checked into a mental hospital because of her problems. This book is about a family with four girls that comes to New York from the Dominican Republic, and the hard times that they go through. It takes place in the 60's, so you can imagine an immigrated Spanish family would get a lot of racial issues (which are mentioned in the story). Throughout the book, each of the four girls had different struggles, which include relationship issues, drug abuse, and mental un-healthiness. It's basically, in my opinion, the life stories of four sisters (and occasionally mentioning their parent's lives). I think the title is more of a figurative statement, about how the girls are kind of becoming real Americans, and changing from their old ways and their old lifestyle, to what is popular in America at that time. I did not like this book very much. I found the whole storyline a bit confusing. If I'm correct, the book started out when they were adults, and worked its way back to when the girls were kids. In the first 100 pages, it focused on when they were grownups, and even when Yolanda was in college. In the last 50 or s, it was all about their childhood and memories associated with it. Like every book, "How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents" had its good drama-filled chapters in it; but all in all, I did not like it a whole lot. I wouldn't recommend this book. I found it a little bit interesting and entertaining, but I found it was mostly dull. I didn't enjoy it all that much, as said before it was quite confusing because of its structure.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 8, 2013

    Slow reading

    Interesting to read of the chaos caused at the end of Trujillo's reign of terror in the country but not enough info about what was going on. I found that it was difficult to remain motivated although I did read the whole thing. I'm not sure if I'll read the other book by this author that I have in my "to reads" in the very near future.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 27, 2008

    How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents

    "How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents" by Julia Alvarez is a story about a wealthy family of San Domingo forced to flee to the Bronx of New York City due to the father's involvment in a plot against the dictator. The story's chapters each have their own speaker which alternates between the Garcia family members and focuses on each member of the family's, mostly the daughters', traumas starting at adulthood and backtracking down to the childhood before their escape. The book expresses the importance of independence as to not crumble under small issues. <BR/>I did not enjoy this book i found it disappointing and overdramatic. It uneccesarily brought up the topic of sex too often. I found the chapters to be ultimately whiney and complaining when the family could have had things far more worse and were severely lucky for what they did have and gratitude was not once expressed, only feeling sorry for themselves. I did learn about a period in Hispanic history that i did not know about prior to reading the book which i did find interesting. I would reccomend this book to people who enjoy listening to other peoples' problems or those involved in a similar state but for others i do not reccomend this story.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 3, 2008

    Review

    Text Review: How the Garcia Girls Lost their Accents Historical context: US Race Relations/Chicano Movement/1956-1987 Reviewer: Molly Mackinlay May 29, 2008 In the novel How the Garcia Girls Lost their Accents, the author, Julia Alvarez examines the experiences of Latin American immigrants. The four daughters and their parents move to America after a failed attempt to overthrow the dictator of their home country: The Dominican Republic. The novel is mostly about the girl¿s attempts to assimilate in American society and their parents¿ reactions. My book was surprisingly historically accurate. While reading it, I felt like I was learning barely any history at all, but reading through the text book I found a lot of reference to different themes in history. On page 882 of the textbook, white flight is discussed and the effect this had on racial biases. This same theme was addressed in my book when the Dominican family moved out of their apartment into a small, uniform, suburban neighborhood. Other major events referenced by my novel are: the cold war ¿ the presence of the CIA in the Dominican Republic, the advent of TVs and similar technology ¿ the fact they had them, the hippie movement ¿ the sisters experimentation with marijuana, affirmative action ¿ the women all got into top schools, and the feminist movement ¿ the oldest daughter, Carla, became a feminist. The information about the struggle with the dictator in the Dominican Republic is interesting, but they don¿t go into enough detail. The text is accurate, but many of the historical references are vague and uninformative. The text is written from the point of view of a Latin American immigrant, and the author is of Latin ancestry. The author is more supportive of the Spanish culture than a white writer probably would have been. While she portrays the father as slightly unjust for holding on to the ¿old ways¿ so tightly, she helps the reader feel sympathy for his struggle to reconcile the cultures. The white people in this book seem unreal and unsupportive of the girls. Their faults are prominently shown and their interactions usually bring only strife into the family. (ex: the white doctor¿s wife and her drinking problem) I don¿t believe this text would have much impact on a reader¿s historical knowledge. First of all, it would have to be assigned for the reader to actually bother to finish the book. Secondly, the historical tidbits are so few and far between that it barely counts as more than a relatively accurate fiction based in the past. The book jumped from one character to another, leaving an incomplete picture of their lives and experiences. If it had chosen one character and told their story from beginning to end, it would have been able to include much more historical accuracy and knowledge. While I didn¿t die of boredom reading it, it wasn¿t interesting nor do I feel that I learned very much. I believe reading a book of straight facts would have been more interesting, if not as easy to read. The plus of not having to take notes would have made it feel less like a textbook reading and more like pleasure without sacrificing knowledge as a result. I wouldn¿t, couldn¿t recommend this book. Not to a friend, at least. It isn¿t horrible, and if you really enjoy reading fiction about Chicano race struggles, you might find it interesting, but other wise don¿t bother. The book is strangely organized to go backwards in time, a practice I found confusing and unhelpful. It was a book you force yourself to finish, and then feel no success because it doesn¿t seem to teach you anything. If given the choice, I would definitely have chosen to read through my textbook instead. Approximately a 2-.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 14, 2008

    confusing and boring

    How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents by Julia Alvarez is about four sisters and their parents moving away from the Dominican Republic to New York in America. Because the girls feels different, they find it hard to try and fit in, meanwhile having to deal with all the hurtful things people say to them because of their race. I think Alvarez tries to show what the girls had to go through because they are immigrants but i didnt really see it, but i don't know if that's just because i wasn't really interested and not paying attention or not. I didn't like the way the vignettes went back in time from when they are adults to when they were much younger. I feel it would have made better sense and would have confused me a lot less if the story just started from the beginning and worked its was forward, but i do think it was a creative idea. The story did teach me some cultural thnigs though. When it said 'the four daughters always came home for their father's birthday. The would gather together, without husbands, would be husbands, or bring home work.' , it showed me that family in their culture is really important and they would leave things outside of the family behind so it wouldn't distract their time from each other. Although the book did teach me about culture, that was about the only thing that really got my attention. I felt there wasnt any real storyline and i often got confused on who was talking and to whom they were talking to. I wish i could have connected to the book more because i am too part of a family with a lot of girls but i couldn't.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 16, 2001

    Disappointed

    As a Latina, I am always in search of Latin authors who write books that I can relate to. Unfortunately, How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents is not one of them. From the title, I was expecting to learn about the struggle a family of sisters experienced acclimating to the American culture, and how they dealt with the experiences. I had no idea that these sisters were going to totally Americanize themselves and basically throw away their Dominican culture. I read Latin-based books because I'm proud and I want to read about proud people. Also, it was hard to know that my Dominican friends stuggled to get to this country, as their families back on the island still struggle, yet these Garcia girls talk about their mansions and pools on the island.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 25, 2000

    Misrepresented

    Perhaps this is a story of sisterhood or identifiable more to a female reader, but in no way can these be represented as indicative of the experiences shared by Hispanic immigrants to the United States and specifically those from the Dominican Republic. Coming from a Dominican family that made this transition at approximately the same time (c. 1960) I was intrigued by this book but found it hollow; barely scratching the surface of the fears facing displaced children and extremely shallow in regards to the conflict Latin women faced (and still face) within the context of their own society let alone adjusting to a new one. Moreover, portraying the privileged Garcia family, albeit victim of sinister political intrigue, as representative of Dominican immigrants is insulting to the majority of hard working peasants that came here simply to be able to provide food and educations for their children. Certainly, the author's intentions are noble, but the results are thin and off the mark.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 8, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted January 26, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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