"How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents" was written by the Dominican novelist and poet, Julia Alvarez. The book revolves around the life story of the Garcias, a family of sisters, a mother and father who emigrate from the turbulent Dominican Republic of the 1950s. Mr. Garcia, their father, is fleeing the imminent danger of his country, following the assasination of their cruel dictator, President Trujillo. Mr. Garcia was actually directly involved in leading the assasination of their president, and is, therefore, running for his life with his family in tow.
This book isn't solely about their plight as survivors of the regime, so much as a combination of themes. One central theme that emerges is that of coming of age. Yolanda, one of the sisters, is the dreamer and the schemer of the family. She lives between two worlds---the first being that of her Dominican identity, and the second is her new "American" status that she is just coming to terms with. The sisters don't look like or act like their "Yanqui" counterparts (i.e. U.S. born whites who make fun of their accents). They must struggle to gain acceptance and tolerance in a--sometimes--cruel and intolerant world.
This report prepared by Daniella Pawl
The Garcia family, part of the elite of the Dominican Republic, is forced to flee tho the United States when the father's part in a plot against the dictator is discovered. "Papi" Garcia is a doctor, but his credentials are not recognized in the United States.
The family comes to New York City relatively poor and victimized because of their Hispanic roots and accents. The book opens in 1989 when the thoroughly Americanized daughters of the family – Carla, Sandra, Yolanda and Sofia – are between 26 and 31 years old. They have been married and divorced. They have finished school and college. They have careers, affairs, children and homes. In effect, the plot is an extended flashback, ending 1956 with the Garcia girls as preschoolers in the Dominican Republic.
We see the Garcia girls as college students. We see them as teenagers who have become thoroughly American, and they hate visits to their relatives on the island. We see young girls in their early school years facing prejudice, relative poverty and the harsh climate of a strange land. The story ends with the last few months of their comfortable lives in the Dominican Republic.
The main narrator, Yolanda, suffers a nervous breakdown and has had an on-again, off-again affair with a married man following her divorce. As the book opens she's in her late 20s and is visiting the island. As the story progresses, we get to know the four Garcia girls. Sofia has angered her father by marrying a German, but in the end (nearly the beginning of the book), they are reconciled. Sandra, the second-oldest has a more serious breakdown than Yolanda's, and she spends considerable time in a private mental hospital. Carla, the oldest, becomes a psychologist.
As Alvarez takes us back, we see Yolanda's frustrations in college as her first boyfriend pressures her to have sex, then leaves her when she won't. Carla struggles with hostile students in the middle school she must attend while her younger sisters attend elementary school. The girls experiment with marijuana.
Toward the end of the book we see the day when the family gets off the island just ahead of the guardia with help from a CIA agent. The book closes with a glimpse of life before the flight, Sandra's unfortunate experience with art lessons and Yolanda's traumatic encounter with a newborn kitten.
This report prepared by David Gordon