How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents

How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents

by Julia Alvarez


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"A joy to read."—The Cleveland Plain Dealer
Acclaimed writer Julia Alvarez’s beloved first novel gives voice to four sisters as they grow up in two cultures. The García sisters—Carla, Sandra, Yolanda, and Sofía—and their family must flee their home in the Dominican Republic after their father’s role in an attempt to overthrow brutal dictator Rafael Trujillo is discovered. They arrive in New York City in 1960 to a life far removed from their existence in the Caribbean. In the wondrous but not always welcoming U.S.A., their parents try to hold on to their old ways as the girls try find new lives: by straightening their hair and wearing American fashions, and by forgetting their Spanish. For them, it is at once liberating and excruciating to be caught between the old world and the new. Here they tell their stories about being at home—and not at home—in America.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781565129757
Publisher: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
Publication date: 01/12/2010
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 38,164
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.10(d)
Age Range: 14 - 18 Years

About the Author

Julia Alvarez left the Dominican Republic for the United States in 1960 at the age of ten. She is the author of six novels, three books of nonfiction, three collections of poetry, and eleven books for children and young adults. She has taught and mentored writers in schools and communities across America and, until her retirement in 2016, was a writer-in-residence at Middlebury College. Her work has garnered wide recognition, including a Latina Leader Award in Literature from the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute, the Hispanic Heritage Award in Literature, the Woman of the Year by Latina magazine, and inclusion in the New York Public Library’s program “The Hand of the Poet: Original Manuscripts by 100 Masters, from John Donne to Julia Alvarez.” In the Time of the Butterflies, with over one million copies in print, was selected by the National Endowment for the Arts for its national Big Read program, and in 2013 President Obama awarded Alvarez the National Medal of Arts in recognition of her extraordinary storytelling.


Middlebury, Vermont

Date of Birth:

March 27, 1950

Place of Birth:

New York, New York


B.A., Middlebury College, 1971; M.F.A., Syracuse University, 1975

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How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 125 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have just recently finished reading this book, and I believe that it is titled perfectly to describe events and cultural things that have changed for the Garcia girls throughout their childhood. The girls don't literally lose their accents, but throughout the novel they start losing things from their lives in the Dominican Republic. I think Julia Alvarez titled the book this way to describe how the Garcia girls became more Americanized and started forgetting about their heritage and culture. The largest influential change in the girls' lives that would allow them to "lose their accents" would be when the de la Torre family moved to America. They moved to escape the dangers of home and hoped to create a new life in America. Their parents are the only people in America that continue to try to live life as if they were still in the Dominican Republic. Their mother is a stickler about how young ladies should act and conduct themselves. Their father believes that American children are influencing the behaviors of his daughters. The girls are also learning English in school each day. They are learning quickly. Their mother already knows English, but their father is not entirely fluent. The family has to help him out. The Garcia girls have become very comfortable in America. They no longer dream of the day when they can go back to the Dominican Republic. They still visit every summer, but they enjoy their time in America. Each Garcia girl is different from the others and they each lead promising lives in America as they continue to go to school, write, or raise families. I would recommend this book to anyone! And I will definitely read another book by Julia Alvarez. I really enjoyed her style of writing!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I hate it i dont understand it
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I also did not enjoy this book. The constantly changing point-of-view is confusing and there seems to be no real plot, just a mishmash of stories. Don't waste your time!
SMichiels More than 1 year ago
I believe that Julia Alvarez intended this book to be read by teenagers just moving to another country. I think she wanted to show these people that when they move to another country, it takes time for them to fit in and get along with everyone else. She does this by telling stories that happened to them as they moved to America and tried to fit into the American lifestyle. By telling different stories for each girl she showed that each person goes through something different when they move to a new country. She also wanted to show them that they should not fully lose their culture that they were taught in their home country. One way she did this was showing how Yolanda went back to the Dominican Republic after spending many years in America and getting use to life there. Another way she shows this is by going backwards in time because it shows how much they have changed, but also how they have remained the same throughout the years away from their home country. Also she wants to show these people that they should not do certain things that they do not want to because of how they are raised. This happens when Yolanda meets Rudy and did not want to have sexual relations with him because she did not believe in it. I think that she wrote it to this group of people because there are a lot of people who have to go through this everyday and she wanted to show them that it takes time to fit into the culture of a new culture.
KrittersRamblings More than 1 year ago
I took a moment before I wrote this review because I wanted to pull all my thoughts together. I read this book for a book club and I just wasn't sure how I really felt about this one. I flip flopped back and forth as to whether I liked the fact that the book started in the present and went back in time with each set of stories. I love flashbacks, but I am not sure if I like going backwards in time - makes for hard reading. I had to take mental note as to the ages of the girls, where they were located and what was going on, it was hard. I thoroughly enjoyed the book. It was very interesting to read a book that was out of my culture and out of my normal realm of reading. I know that this story could be close to a true story because I have a great friend from my Enterprise Rent a Car days who was Panama (not the city, the country) and she had stories of her "Tias" and all of her cousins. I would recommend this book to all of my friends who love to read stories involving sisters and families. This is a great read about how a family becomes what it has and how the smallest events affect each one in the family.
Keenan14 More than 1 year ago
The title of the book I read is, "How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents", and is written by Julia Alvarez. The theme is culture clash. It has to do with the changes the four girls (Carla, Sandi, Yolanda, Fifi) go through when they move to America. Their conservative Latin ways of life clashes with the fast paced, non-conservative American style of living. This theme is incorporated a lot throughout the book because when Yolanda was in college, she didn't know much about American slang, her morals were different than Americans, and she acted differently than Americans. She acted differently because of her culture and where she grew up (Dominican Republic). The main character is Yolanda (yoyo for short). I think she is the main character because out of the whole family, she is talked about most throughout the whole book. Julia wrote mostly about Yolanda, with in-depth descriptions of her relationship struggles, her thought process about her move to America, and what she thought of people. She doesn't play a very important part, I don't think any of the girls do, but I think without her in the story, and it wouldn't be as interesting. Her life was always filled with the most drama, at one point she gets checked into a mental hospital because of her problems. This book is about a family with four girls that comes to New York from the Dominican Republic, and the hard times that they go through. It takes place in the 60's, so you can imagine an immigrated Spanish family would get a lot of racial issues (which are mentioned in the story). Throughout the book, each of the four girls had different struggles, which include relationship issues, drug abuse, and mental un-healthiness. It's basically, in my opinion, the life stories of four sisters (and occasionally mentioning their parent's lives). I think the title is more of a figurative statement, about how the girls are kind of becoming real Americans, and changing from their old ways and their old lifestyle, to what is popular in America at that time. I did not like this book very much. I found the whole storyline a bit confusing. If I'm correct, the book started out when they were adults, and worked its way back to when the girls were kids. In the first 100 pages, it focused on when they were grownups, and even when Yolanda was in college. In the last 50 or s, it was all about their childhood and memories associated with it. Like every book, "How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents" had its good drama-filled chapters in it; but all in all, I did not like it a whole lot. I wouldn't recommend this book. I found it a little bit interesting and entertaining, but I found it was mostly dull. I didn't enjoy it all that much, as said before it was quite confusing because of its structure.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is the problem with 'ethnic' texts, they bear the responsibility of overrespresentation. Today, dominicans are migrating in high numbers, and are not living the lives in the U.S. found in this book. Julia Alvarez, while claims Dominican, does not write the typical immigrant experience. In using a venue of such mass appeal, one must make this clear. We cannot forget that there are readers who are not familiar with the tragic stories of Dominican migrants, and will use this text to form their opinion of the matter. This is not to silence Julia Alvarez, but what I am asking is the recognition of her responsibility of differentiating her fiction from our reality. Julia Alvarez, might have lost her accent, but the 1.1. million Dominicans living in the United States might beg to differ.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Julia Alvarez's How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents is a badly written book in many ways: sentence structure is difficult to follow, and she writes in translation: she is thinking in Spanish and doing a bad translation into English. As a native speaker of Spanish, I spotted countless errors in translation in which the meaning becomes obscured. She neglects to mention the issues of class and race. In Dominican culture, persons of African descent, with kinky hair and skin as dark as Wesley or Denzel or darker, face more discrimination in the D.R. than they do in the U.S. Also, the sharp class divisions mean that while the Alvarez family has maids and tutors, the average Dominican is living on near-starvation wages and is barely literate. I was very disappointed in the book and believe the popularity was due to the fact that the book was fluff. Alvarez does not challenge the reader to think about difficult issues. Writing a book about the Dominican experience without delving into problems of race and class is like writing a book about Gay men without mentioning the A.I.D.S plague or writing a book about the Civil Rights Movement without mentioning Martin Luther King. Those of us who are people of color cannot avoid thinking about race. However, people of European descent CHOOSE whether to think about race, whether to care about the inequities that exist due to racial prejudice. In the D.R., Alvarez is white. And if you read the book, you will see that she chose not to think about race. She chose the safe route.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Julia Alvarez’s book How the García Girls Lost Their Accents is a powerful and enchanting story of the García de la Torre family's life and journey in both their home country, the Dominican Republic, and the United States of America. Within this book, Alvarez helps sheds light onto how hard it can be for immigrants to assimilate to American culture while still keeping their cultural heritage. This book is organized on descending chronological order starting with one of the middle sisters, Yolanda, coming home to the island after being in the States for 5 years and ending with another story about Yolanda’s childhood before she left the Island. Due to the organization of the book, the chapters all seem like individual stories that end up intertwining to form a bigger message about an event, time, place, or character. I believe that this organization made the book hard to follow and understand at first, but after reading the first few chapters and meeting the characters, the storyline becomes more clear. While this organization can be confusing, I believe that it is a very unique literary device that makes the book stand out. Throughout the book, Alvarez uses many forms of symbolism to portray an idea or characteristic surrounding one or more of the characters. By utilizing this literary device, Alvarez forces the reader to think and become more invested and rooted into lives, personalities, and minds of all the characters, but imparticular the four girls, Carla, Sandra, Yolanda, and Sofía. For example, in the chapter titled “The Drum”, Yolanda finds a mother cat and her kittens in the shed and decides to take one of the kittens in as her pet. When Yolanda’s mother finds out about the kitten, she throws it out of the house to fend for itself and Yolanda states that she never saw the kitten again but believes that it could not survive without its mother. This is symbolic of Yolanda and her sisters being taken from their home country when they were very young. Due to being taken away so young, they have lost a big portion of themselves that is truly seen in the first chapter when Yolanda has a hard time coming back home and assimilating to Dominican culture. All in all, How the García Girls Lost Their Accents is a unique and fresh book about growing up, family, culture, and tradition. Throughout the course of the book, the reader learns about each character's background and perspective that help shape their feelings and how they approach relationships and the world. It is also a daring tale of growing up in the hight of the dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo in the Dominican Republic and the Cuban Missle Crisis in the United States. It is truly a deep, soulful, and powerful story that any reader would enjoy.
Kellyn7486 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The story is a backwards look at generations. It tries too hard to be The Joy Luck Club and doesn't go deep enough.
Beamis12 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I found parts of this book very amusing but parts of it irritated me also Found the going back and forth confusing at times and found the four sisters, in parts, almost sounded the same. I think I was missing a depth of character that I needed to see and only had brief glimpses of in Yolanda. I think my favorite characte5r was the mother and all her stories.
morganallen on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book was okay. The auther did a good job switcihing back and forth from present tense to past tense. Overall a good book.
elsyd on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
For me, this was a book with no beginning and no end. It did have sections that were entertaining, and a couple of lines that were memorable. Not a book I would really recomend.
anterastilis on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It seemed wierd to me that although I enjoyed this book, I never got around to writing a review for it. It is almost three months since I created this entry, and I see it whenever I browse the page - but never have anything to say about it.Perhaps that is the most accurate message I can send about this book. It was good, it was enjoyable. The characters were well developed and the author did a good job capturing the world the Garcia Girls lived in: growing up in the Dominican Republic and moving to NYC; the process of becoming "American Girls" and the struggles that each family member had with their identities. But it didn't stick. It didn't haunt me or make me sit back and wonder about it. I don't go through my daily life and come across things that remind me of it.It might have one thing I remember and will reference in the future - it is written in short chapters, starting with the most recent and going back to the 1960's in the Dominican Republic. That was an interesting way to write the book - but after every chapter I was left with questions that I knew would never get answered. That was frustrating.
jpsnow on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is one of those rare occasions where I just don't get what everyone else sees. For me, the story would be easier to understand through more distinct short stories, rather than the Cubist approach Alvarez uses. The story certainly does convey some of the cultural nuances of the Dominican Republic, but I found even this to be overkill in places. For example, in one passage, she includes a series of malapropisms used by one of the main characters who had migrated to the US. There were so many that they started to seem unreal. I've read a reasonable diversity of cultures and gender emphasis. This just didn't work for me.
05marry on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Well not to long ago did I finish reading this book.I got to say it is a joyfull story.This story is based upon how a young lady loses her accent.It talks about there history as young little girls and there good/bad moments.It is a hipanic book but not only does the cover catch your eye but the story as well.It talks about her antojo,kiss,and much more.
capncait on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Alvarez's novel delves into the American immigrant experience from the perspective of four sisters. The innovative narrative is in reverse chronological order, beginning at present day with a deracinated adult woman returning to a now foreign Dominican Republic, and traces back to the family's flight from their homeland. Through this four narrators, Alvarez explores the challenges presented by conflicts of race, class, and ethnicity, juxtaposing the girl's experiences in both the United States and the Dominican Republic.
hvaluet on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book can be a bit challenging for youth with its constant flash backs and flash forwards in the characters' lives. However, this unique style of writing gives the book a character and quality that makes it interesting. This story about four sisters coping with and adapting to a new culture in America when they are forced to flee their home in the Dominican Republic due to political reasons is a touching and dramatic portrayal of family ties and coming of age. I would recommend this book for students who enjoy historical and/or multicultural fiction.
Desiree9 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
How the Garcia Girls Lost Their accents is a book with a series of short stories that recounts the lives of four Dominican-American sisters¿Carla, Sandra, Yolanda, and Sofia. It describes the families struggles as they try to adjust to their new american life without loosing their dominican tradition and heritage. It talks about the womens battles with trying to keep their language and staying loyal to their father.
isabelx on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The story of the four Garcia de la Torre sisters whose family left the Dominican Republic to live in New York. They gradually get over their home-sickness, but even as adults they are unsure whether they have lost more than they have gained. I liked the way it was written, going backwards in time starting with their adult life in New York and ending up with them as small children on the island.Poignant and very enjoyable.
schrader.jill on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I did not enjoy this book as much as Alvarez' In the Time of the Butterflies. This book tells the story of the Garcia family and their four daughters as they flee the Dominican Republic and move to the U.S. The book jumps around in time, and I think that maybe it was this aspect that I liked the least.
heaward on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book was good, but the conclusion wasn't very satisfying (or conclusive, if you will). It tells the story of a family with four daughters who emigrated from the Dominican Republic to the U.S. The tale moves backwards in time, expanding your understanding as it goes of how they ended up being who they are. It was most interesting to me when I reached the description of their childhood on the island.
edwin.gleaves on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Another "sister" story, this one about life in the Dominican Republic and the United States, told, interestingly enough, in reverse chronological order. See also In the Time of the Butterflies.