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Once Upon a Quinceanera: Coming of Age in the USA

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 16, 2013

    Once Upon a QuinceaƱera entwines the stories of a modern Latina

    Once Upon a Quinceañera entwines the stories of a modern Latina, Monica, and the author, Julia Alvarez, with information about coming of age in the United States. Alvarez tags along for the biggest event of Monica’s young life – her quinceañera. The story explores why young Latinas are being crowned princesses at their quince and then dropping out of school or getting pregnant. Alvarez combines Monica’s party with statistics and anecdotes of her own life as a Latina in the USA.
    The goal of Once Upon a Quinceañera is to find an answer to what seems to be a simple question – why are girls given a huge, extravagant party to celebrate their becoming a woman, and then becoming mothers living in poverty so quickly? Alvarez looks into many reasons that young Latinas insist on spending money they may not have on a quinceañera, which include status, tradition, and the fairy-tale feeling. The modern day quince strays pretty far from tradition, making the extravagance seem even more unnecessary. Alvarez explores every pro and con of a quinceañera in explicit detail.
    In starting this book, I was excited to learn more about quinceañeras, which I had only known the basic facts about. Once Upon a Quinceañera strips away the glamour surrounding the Latina tradition and gets into the behind-the-scenes details. Monica’s family spent more than they could afford on her party, which is not uncommon among Hispanics. As Alvarez herself did not have a quinceañera, her criticism can sound as though she is mocking the modern Latinas that “throw the house out the window” for theirs. She provides a lot of figures to support her view, which is helpful, but there is almost an overuse of references and statistics. Her opinion also tended to sway based on the information given, so it seemed like she was not sure how she felt about the subject. Alvarez also over-analyzed some miniscule details, such as comments left on a quince website, and then referenced them several times throughout the rest of the text.
    While I think the book started off in the right direction, I feel as though it strayed from the original concept, and began to include random topics, such as violence at quinceañeras, at the end. Alvarez looks into why girls even want to have this party, but then doesn’t go as in-depth into what happens to them in life afterward. Therefore, the original questions of the book were somewhat unanswered, and I felt the ending left something to be desired. Instead, the conclusion just summed up the entire story with information that had been repeated several times already throughout the book.
    Overall, this story has potential, but Alvarez needed to be more concise, and have either a stronger or nonexistent opinion on the topic. The repetitive nature made for a very disengaging book, and I was disappointed by the ending because it didn’t really feel as though it finished off the book. I think it would be better suited for someone truly interested in the coming of age of Latinas, not just a high schooler looking for an interesting read. As a non-Hispanic girl, I was expecting to learn more about this tradition, but I felt as though the author doesn’t even like the idea of quinces herself. This would be helpful to someone who needs information for a research paper, as it references many outside sources. Ultimately, Once Upon a Quinceañera had a unique concept that sparked my interest, but the execution disappointed me.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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