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

6 out of 7 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 March 13, 2002

    Wonderful, exciting

    Defenitely one of those books that are hard to put down. Julia Alvarez captured the drama needed to make this book alive. The characters so real and familiar, someone for everyone to relate to. It follows every aspect of a maturing life. Growing up, political controversy, and love. A book for everyone to enjoy.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 2, 2001

    Juana M. Perez, Hispanic American, Virtual College Student, MDCC, Nov. 2001

    In the brilliant novel of Julia Alvarez, How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents, the author tells the innermost stories of four sisters and their entire family without any restrictions, giving the reader the touching events of the life of a Hispanic family that chased its aspirations in the United States.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 26, 2002

    You did it again, Julia!!

    this is an excellent book! Well done Julia Alvarez, you have done it again. I believe that this is a must have book for every dominican family. Adelante!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 9, 2001

    Good Reading...

    How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents is warm and comfortable with childhood memories. Julia Alvarez has a colorful and captivating way of making you feel as if you were right there with each trial and trubulation of her characters. I come from a family of four girls and every story brought back a childhood memory. In this book we see how Carla, Sandra, Yolanda and Sofia adapt to the chanding world around them: from escaping to New York because of their fathers' political ties to becoming a young women and falling in love. I will enjoy it even more reading it a second time.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 6, 2001

    Awesome

    In the book How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents, Julia Alvarez does a terrific job in telling us about the life of four sisters Carla, Sandi, Sofia and Yolanda. The sisters leave the Dominican Republic and move to New York with their parents. Here the sisters start experiencing the differences between Hispanic countries and America. Throughout the book the sisters tell us about all their experiences in growing up in the USA. This book illustrates what immigrants go through everyday as they leave their homelands and move to the USA in search of a better life.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 9, 2001

    How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents

    I¿m not much of a reader but I enjoyed this book. I was born and raised in the United States so I don¿t know what it is to encounter the many difficulties that come about when you have to move to a foreign country. These girls, along with their parents and other family members raise issues that many people deal with on a daily basis. A new language can be very exhausting for anyone trying to make a living. Providing an education to your children can be very stressful when you know you might have to send them to another country by themselves. Our environment has a lot to do with the way the sisters are raised. In their country, Dominican Republic there isn¿t as much freedom as there is in the US so a close eye from another country is pretty difficult to do. This book gives everyone a great insight on the Hispanic American families that want their children to grow and get an education in the United States.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 23, 2001

    'La familia'

    All that I can say is that I loved this book. At first I was a little apprehensive about reading this story. I thought that it would be the type of story that only Hispanic Americans could relate to, but I was wrong. This is a book for anyone that has ever felt left out of the majority. Each chapter takes you further and further into the minds and hearts of each character. First there is Yo, the poet, who simply wants a man to respect and adore her. Next there is Sandi, the basket case, who wants to be seen for her uniqueness. Then there is Fifi, the wild child, who deep down seeks her father's acceptance. Then is Carla, the psyche, which tries to make sense of her whole family. Finally there is Papi and Mami that want, like all parents, their daughters to be the best, but without having to deny or change they are 'la familia'. Reading how the Garcia girls are torn between becoming Americanized and not being able to let go of their Latin culture puts me in touch with just how difficult it is to immigrate into this country. We as Americans sometimes make it hard for those who are different to become a part of the 'American Dream'.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 21, 2001

    A book anyone can enjoy!!!

    I really enjoyed reading Julia Alvarez¿s book How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents. When I first read the title, I thought that this book was only going to be about how the girls learn to speak English. To my surprise, it was not. I did not expect the content to be colorful and descriptive. In my opinion the title is a little misleading. Nonetheless, Julia Alvarez did a wonderful job in writing this book. She always keeps the reader interested in her story. I could not personally relate to any of the characters in this book. Perhaps it is because I am not Hispanic, who knows. I think that this book could easily be made into a movie if it has not already been done. It is an excellent book. I would recommend it to any one.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 26, 2001

    How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents

    Wow this book was great. It caught my attention throughout the entire time I was reading it. It¿s a true review of a Dominican Republican family and the hardships they encounter when trying to find freedom and happiness. They encounter troubles in American that they didn¿t think would arise. All four sisters go through different phases in both their childhood and adulthood that we all encounter at one point or another. One of the most remembered moments was when Sandi catches an American women making a pass at her father whom was also married, and even though she is a child, she finds that this she could use as blackmail to get what she wants from the father. I find that the profanity that is used doesn¿t come across in a vulgar manner; it just goes with the stories. I think this book should be read by those with a Hispanic background and even more so those without one. This will truly take everyone through a ride that will then make people understand the hardships that are encountered by those persons trying to escape their country in search of freedom and happiness. I give Julia Alvarez and all other Latina writers that make these memories come to life for those who have been through the same situations but didn¿t remember the exact steps they encountered.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 24, 2001

    MOVING

    I enjoyed reading Julia Alvarez's novel. I feel she did a good job of telling the story of the De La Torre family. The time travel story line was an interesting way to narrate this story. I will again read one of her fiction novels. Julia brought this story to life, even if I am not of Hispanic background. I feel she was on the money, with the right amount of humor and sarcasm.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 29, 2000

    Great reading

    My parents used to send me back to the island for the summer. Julia's description of life in the island (from a visitor's point of view if extremely accurate). The are idiosyncrasies are described to a 'T' Also life as an immigrant in the U.S. she has described what it is like to NOT really fit in either culture because you're a little bit of both! Great reading.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 12, 2000

    Julia is amazing!

    This book was the first book I had read from Julia Alvarez', and after that, I was hooked, and now read all of her books and poems. She is now my favorite author. I couldn't believe how much I could identify with her characters. I too, am a Dominican-American, raised in Queens. I have 3 sisters, and at times, while reading the book, I felt as though Julia as a fly on the wall during my childhood! I have had many of the same experiences as the Garcia girls. Julia captured the essence of being Dominican and growing up in America. My sisters and I were the 'gringitas' to our family back home in the Domincan Republic. We also were thought to be too 'Americanized', especially since our mom was Puerto Rican! I fully understood how the Garcia girls were torn between two worlds. I loved this book, I laughed, cried, and can honestly say that I have a relative that fits the exact mold of every character in the novel. She took me back to my childhood, and made me so proud of my culture. I think that this novel should be required reading for all. She truly captured the beauty, and at times, the sadness of the Dominican culture and history. I now tell all of my friends, and family to read her, and in fact my sisters and I are driving 8 hours to attend a reading by Julia Alvarez in the Museum of Women in the Arts in D.C., just to meet her.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 24, 2000

    Charming and tender book!

    Reading my first Alvarez novel was a very compelling and humoruos experience. Instead of feeling like an outsider looking in, I felt I was a part of the Garcia family. From the strange man in the car to the Papi, the old world father, each story is an intricate detail to the personalities of the sisters. Alvarez lightens serious government exile with the many family mishaps and sisterly advice. Vivid descriptions and vulnerable characters add to this tender novel. Alvarez portrays the life of an immigrant family with warm and charming stories which can't help but make the reader fall in love with the Garcia sisters and family. Highly recommended!

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    Posted October 31, 2008

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    Posted December 15, 2008

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    Posted July 13, 2009

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