How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents | Critical Review by Cecilia Rodríguez Milanés

This literature criticism consists of approximately 2 pages of analysis & critique of How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents.
This section contains 452 words
(approx. 2 pages at 300 words per page)
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Critical Review by Cecilia Rodríguez Milanés

SOURCE: "No Place Like Home," in The Women's Review of Books, Vol. 8, Nos. 10-11, July, 1991, p. 39.

In the following review, Milanés calls How the García Girls Lost Their Accents a portrait of "its protagonists' precarious coming of age."

As so many immigrants and exiles know, you can never go back home. It's never the same—or rather we are not the same. In Julia Alvarez' novel the sisters Carla, Sandra, Yolanda and Sofía lose their island accents, life and ways, but How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents is not simply about adjustment and acculturation. It is about its protagonists' precarious coming of age as Latinas in the United States and gringas in Santo Domingo.

On the first anniversary of the family's life in the US, Carla makes a clearly unrealizable wish:

What do you wish for on the first celebration of the day you lost everything? Carla wondered. Everyone else around the table had their eyes closed as if they had no trouble deciding. Carla closed her eyes too. She should make an effort and not wish for what she always wished for in her homesickness. But just this last time, she would let herself. "Dear God," she began. She could not get used to this American wish-making without bringing God into it. "Let us please go back home, please," she half prayed and half wished.

Chucha, the voodoo-practicing servant, predicts what the reader is made aware of through the separate but interrelated stories that make up the chapters:

I feel their losses pile up like dirt thrown on a box after it has been lowered into the earth. I see their future, the troublesome life ahead. They will be haunted by what they do and don't remember. But they have spirit in them. They will invent what they need to survive.

They do indeed survive, and when one compares their lives with that of their island counterparts—pampered queens sheltered in a complex of family houses barricaded by a high stone wall against the violence, poverty and danger of the Dominican Republic, saddled with philandering husbands, with little more to anticipate but the next cousin's wedding—the sisters' somewhat haunted life is preferable. They are, in fact, their own women, standing up to boyfriends, husbands, lovers and parents—even the island family when it comes down to it.

Back home the girls had art lessons and learned to ride horseback. There were trips abroad and chauffeurs awaiting them in the driveway of the lush family compound. Their native Spanish is a protective garment wrapped around them, but in the US English defrocks Spanish: there are Catholic schools, redneck neighborhoods, identical suburban houses and, later, a great deal of typical American teenage life.

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This section contains 452 words
(approx. 2 pages at 300 words per page)
Buy the Critical Review by Cecilia Rodríguez Milanés