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The Woman I Kept to Myself
     

The Woman I Kept to Myself

4.0 1
by Julia Alvarez, Alvarez
 

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The works of award-winning poet and novelist Julia Alvarez are rich with the language and influences of two cultures: the Dominican Republic of her childhood and the America of her youth and adulthood. They have shaped her writing just as they have shaped her life.

Since her first celebrated novel, How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents, she has been expressing

Overview

The works of award-winning poet and novelist Julia Alvarez are rich with the language and influences of two cultures: the Dominican Republic of her childhood and the America of her youth and adulthood. They have shaped her writing just as they have shaped her life.

Since her first celebrated novel, How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents, she has been expressing the passions and opinions of sisters and aunts, mothers and daughters, heroines and martyrs. In The Woman I Kept to Myself, seventy-five poems that weave together the narrative of a woman's inner life, it is Alvarez's own clear voice that sings out in every line. These are not poems of a woman discovering herself -- Alvarez might say that's what her twenties were for -- but of a woman returning to herself. Now, in the middle of her life, she looks back as a way of understanding and celebrating the woman she has become. Her voice becomes all our voices as she speaks of failed loves and marriages, late-in-life love, politics and prejudices that haunt us. The humanity and humor that permeate even her darkest thoughts are offered to the reader in these wise and intimate poems.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Author of the popular novels How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents and In the Time of the Butterflies, Alvarez continues to explore themes of cultural difference and personal experience in her new collection of poems. The book, which marks her fourth collection of poetry, comprises 75 poems of 30 lines each; the formal constraint is an organizing principle for these sometimes meandering autobiographical poems. A good many poems explore her development and status as a writer, specifically as a Latina: "Even I, childless one, intend to write/ New Yorker fiction in the Cheever style / but all my stories tell where I came from." The midsection of the book, "The Woman I Kept to Myself," roams from nostalgic reflections on childhood birthday presents to meditations on eating disorders to speedily resolved family conflicts to personal, and worldwide, losses: "Why did it take so long? Mom and Dad's deaths/ a friend's cancer, a cousin's accident/ the Twin Towers, the war on innocents...." Seeing the first signs of spring sets the world to rights again: "Then suddenly, a daffodil, a patch/ of crocuses... and back into the intact Towers flew/ stick figures, like a film in reverse." Most poems here arrive at similar recastings of hard truths; often, however, one feels that both sides of the equation are too easily won, drawing close to clich and facile reconciliation: "I've woken to the world just as it is," she writes, "and that's enough-in fact, more than enough." (Apr.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Quotidian events, a storylike structure, and colloquial diction make Alvarez's latest book seem more like a memoir (albeit one written with attention to the sounds of language, especially alliteration) than a book of poetry. The author of four novels (including In the Time of the Butterflies, a National Book Award finalist), Alvarez at her best writes in a style reminiscent of Billy Collins. There are deceptively simple conversational poems, like "Saman" and several others here, which resonate in a bright mesh of metaphors. Yet most of the work in this collection does not attain that level. Some poems, like "Deathdays" and "All-American Girl," have a greeting-card tone; others go on too long, as if Alvarez were afraid that readers might not have understood the actual ending, which usually occurs in the penultimate stanza. Too many poems (e.g., "Why I Write") rely on clich s, few of which are spun out into gold. Recommended for larger public libraries only.-Diane Scharper, Towson Univ., MD Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal
Adult/High School-This tightly structured collection of 75 poems is divided into three sections, and each poem has three stanzas, exactly. Alvarez's voice, however, is as free and strong as the free verse she composes. The poet, who is from the Dominican Republic, writes about being raised with her sisters in New York. The subjects are personal-love, marriage, rejection, divorce, death, religion-but also universal. She says in "Why I Write," "Unless I write things down I never know what I think, no less feel." This book will appeal to readers not only for the eloquence with which Alvarez describes her feelings and discoveries, but also for the humor. In "Abbot Academy" she notes that as a schoolgirl she found that ladies "-learned to be blondies even if they were dark-haired, olive-skinned, spic-chicks like me." Readers who enjoyed How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents (1992) or In the Time of the Butterflies (1995, both Plume) will love her poetry. Teens approaching adulthood will appreciate the poet who turned to "paper solitude" and through many drafts discovered "the woman I kept to myself."-Sheila Janega, Fairfax County Public Library, Great Falls, VA Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
From the Publisher
“Charming and intense at the same time, Alvarez writes candidly of epic concerns and everyday realities in this unfailingly lucid collection of autobiographical poems.” —Booklist

“Brave and vivid . . . Seventy-five poems express wonder, anger, grief and joy in clear, accessible narratives.” —The Miami Herald

“The poems are, like precious moments in life, nuggets to be savored and reflected upon.” —The Dallas Morning News

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781565124066
Publisher:
Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
Publication date:
01/04/2004
Pages:
176
Product dimensions:
5.36(w) x 8.24(h) x 0.73(d)

Meet the Author

Julia Alvarez left the Dominican Republic for the United States in 1960 at the age of ten. A novelist, poet, and essayist, she is the author of nineteen books, including How the García Girls Lost Their Accents,In the Time of the Butterflies—a National Endowment for the Arts Big Read Selection—Yo!, Something to Declare, In the Name of Salome, Saving theWorld, A Wedding in Haiti, and The Woman I Kept to Myself. Her work has garnered wide recognition, including the 2013 National Medal of Arts, a Latina Leader Award in Literature in 2007 from the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute, the 2002 Hispanic Heritage Award in Literature, the 2000 Woman of the Year by Latina magazine, and inclusion in the New York Public Library’s 1996 program “The Hand of the Poet: Original Manuscripts by 100 Masters, from John Donne to Julia Alvarez.” A writer-in-residence at Middlebury College, Alvarez and her husband, Bill Eichner, established Alta Gracia, an organic coffee farm–literacy arts center, in her homeland, the Dominican Republic.

Brief Biography

Hometown:
Middlebury, Vermont
Date of Birth:
March 27, 1950
Place of Birth:
New York, New York
Education:
B.A., Middlebury College, 1971; M.F.A., Syracuse University, 1975

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Woman I Kept to Myself 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
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