Once Upon a Quinceanera: Coming of Age in the USA

Once Upon a Quinceanera: Coming of Age in the USA

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by Julia Alvarez

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Finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, a “phenomenal, indispensable” (USA Today) exploration of the Latina “sweet fifteen” celebration, by the bestselling author of How the García Girls Lost Their Accents and In the Time of Butterflies

The quinceañera, a celebration of a Latina

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Finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, a “phenomenal, indispensable” (USA Today) exploration of the Latina “sweet fifteen” celebration, by the bestselling author of How the García Girls Lost Their Accents and In the Time of Butterflies

The quinceañera, a celebration of a Latina girl’s fifteenth birthday, has become a uniquely American trend. This lavish party with ball gowns, multi-tiered cakes, limousines, and extravagant meals is often as costly as a prom or a wedding. But many Latina girls feel entitled to this rite of passage, marking a girl’s entrance into womanhood, and expect no expense to be spared, even in working-class families. Acclaimed author Julia Alvarez explores the history and cultural significance of the “quince” in the United States, and the consequences of treating teens like princesses. Through her observations of a quince in Queens, interviews with other quince girls, and the memories of her own experience as a young immigrant, Alvarez presents a thoughtful and entertaining portrait of a rapidly growing multicultural phenomenon, and passionately emphasizes the importance of celebrating Latina womanhood.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Available in English and Spanish versions, this reprint of the 2007 original, which is out of print, follows the experiences of several quinceañeras (the name for the celebrant as well as the celebration) as a lens through which to examine the experience of immigration, Latina culture, and coming of age. The author also reflects on her own experience as a Latina immigrant and as such this book remains one of the most enjoyable anthropological works on the topic, despite its age. (LJ 7/07)
Entertainment Weekly
Alvarez's honest grappling with her caught-between-twocultures experience is compelling.
Cristina Garcia
With grace and humanity, Alvarez explores the fascinating evolution of the quinceañera tradition in the United States, responding provocatively to a tradition that charms her and simultaneously clashes with feminist sensibilities. (Cristina Garcia, author of Dreaming in Cuban and A Handbook to Luck)
Washington Post
Fascinating, exhaustively researched.
Mary Pipher
A thorough, thoughtful, and important book. . . .Bravo, Julia Alvarez. (Mary Pipher, author of The Middle of Everywhere and Reviving Ophelia)
Chicago Sun-Times
Though [Alvarez] brings a critical eye to long-held myths...each page is a love song to the cultural ties that bind generations of women from a diverse group of countries.
Seattle Times
A journey into experiencing a vital, exuberant ritual of modern Latino life...As an author, Alvarez is a terrific tour guide.
Maria Hinosa
This is not just a book for Latinas. Once Upon a Quinceañera is for all of us...especially for those of us raising daughters in America today. (Maria Hinosa, Senior Correspondent for NOW/PBS, author of Raising Raul and Crews)
Luz Lazo
In Once Upon a Quinceanera, a fascinating, exhaustively researched book about the celebration of a girl's coming of age, bestselling novelist Julia Alvarez, author of How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accent and In the Time of the Butterflies, studies the ancient ritual that unites the U.S. Latino community and is rapidly evolving and spreading across ethnic lines…
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly

With a voice that is at once huskily mature and sweetly girlish and with a native sense of Spanish pronunciation and rhythm, Broadway star Daphne Rubin-Vega was an inspired choice to narrate Alvarez's examination of the Latina girl's "sweet 15" celebration, the quinceañera, a booming industry now as immigrant families in the U.S. show off their success by throwing fabulous parties for their daughters. As Alvarez interviews and observes teenage Latinas while reminiscing about her own turbulent adolescence in the 1960s, Rubin-Vega alters her sultry tone expertly to contrast the younger generation's brash American attitudes with Alvarez and other older immigrants' more skeptical views. In the second half, Alvarez's writing turns comparatively dry and preachy when she shifts from describing concrete experience to discussing her research into the development of tradition and advocating for a better support system for adolescents. Still, there's plenty to savor in this production, and anyone looking for insight into a phenomenon that will only grow as the Latino population in the U.S. increases will appreciate this skillful presentation of Alvarez's insights into the culture. Simultaneous release with the Viking hardcover (Reviews, May 30). (July)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Kirkus Reviews
Bestselling Alvarez (Saving the World, 2006, etc.) uses the phenomenon of Sweet 15 parties for Latina girls to explore issues of . . . herself. Originally, the quincea-era was a party thrown to celebrate a girl's passage into marriageable womanhood when she turned 15, which is-or was until recently-the legal age of consent for females in much of Latin America. The parties are lavish affairs, with the dresses tending toward puffy and the ambience tending toward princessy. The specifics are extremely malleable, however, with traditions from Cuba and the Dominican Republic thrown into the Latin American mix. Like any marketable cultural phenomenon, the celebrations have been seized upon by the party industry; gown makers and planners stand ready to help parents spend thousands of dollars they don't have, while conventions and a trade magazine advise the professionals. Alvarez inserts herself into a number of quincea-eras (which she then melds into one for dramatic purposes), trying to figure out why the phenomenon has taken off in America in recent years and what it says about the Latin American experience. Unfortunately, the girls themselves are hardly illuminating: "It's like part of my culture" is a typical quote. Alvarez is no help either, using the topic of quincea-eras primarily as a creaky springboard to launch into windy, maudlin ruminations on growing up as a Dominican immigrant in Queens. With such a narcissistic narrator, it's no surprise the girls were less than forthcoming. Might appeal to those who enjoy MTV's My Super Sweet 16. Agent: Susan Bergholz/Susan Bergholz Literary Services

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Penguin Publishing Group
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Age Range:
18 Years

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