Wednesday, February 22, 2006

My thoughts on a good book I'm reading. . .

Outside of my reading for my own classes, one of my friends had recommended that I read this great book that she had had to read in one of her classes last semester. The name of that book is How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents by Julia Alvarez. I just finished the first few sections of the book and I am going to post my reaction to what I’ve read thus far.

Throughout the first two sections of the book, How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents, the struggle between the girls and their Dominican culture as well as their American culture is very intricately described. In many of the sections there is a constant theme of a direct battle between “the four girls” and their father. Though it was their father, Carlos, who originally brought the girls to the United States due to the heinous dictatorship of Trujillo, he is portrayed just as harshly of an authoritarian than that of what he and his family escaped from in the island. The four girls; Carla, Sandra, Yolanda, and Sofia, find themselves really struggling with the vast difference between their lives on the island of the Dominican Republic and their new life in New York. At the beginning of the novel, the family has come together again for the birthday of their father on the island, which is a tradition that they always do. Throughout history, Dominican males tend to be the protector of the households as well as the protector of his female children’s virginity. Due to this role that Carlos finds himself trying to uphold, in both New York and the island, he is indirectly stunting the girls from their independence that is needed for them to grow as people.
There is a particular example that stood out to me when reading that totally embodied what can happen when someone’s independence, both overall and sexual, is severely hindered. It is that of the relationship between Sofia and her father. It occurs when Sofia has her father’s birthday party at her own home, instead of what they usually do. She does this in order to reconcile with her father and show off her family’s newest addition, a new baby named after her father, Carlos.
Sofia and her father had not been on speaking terms due to her marriage to Otto, a German man that she met while “vacationing” in Columbia with another one of her previous boyfriends. Vacationing for Sofia was the only way to become intimate with her boyfriends. After Sofia returned from her vacation, her father found sexually explicit letters from Otto, and then accused Sofia of trying her best to ruin the family’s name and everything that he had worked so austerely to provide for them. This is the reason for throwing the birthday party at her home. Towards the end of the party, Carlos seemed sadder and sadder due to thoughts of being old and in order to cheer him up a game is made. The game consisted of all four of Carlos’ girls and his wife. They were to come up to him and kiss him while he is blindfolded and he is to guess which one it is. Due to him being able to guess all of the other ones but not Sofia’s, it really hurts her feelings. Sofia then wanted her kiss to be easily recognizable, therefore kissing her fathers ear with a big, wet kiss. This enrages Carlos and he ends the game immediately. In this part of the story it is clear that the way that Carlos thinks his daughter’s should act and the way they see fit for themselves are two completely opposite views. Sofia and her sisters see themselves as women first and see their culture as a close second, whereas their father holds their reputations, culture, and traditions high above them as individuals.
The way in which this book is formatted, with starting from the end and then going back into the history behind the characters and circumstances, makes the story even more relatable because when your looking and thinking back through the years about the things that have really affected you and made you the person you are today, that is something that everyone can do and relate to. I hope that the rest of the book is as engaging as the parts that I have already read!


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