There the story of those immigrant families through

is always this one book that captivates you at the first sentence and you just cannot
put the book down. It is as if you jump into the story and are walking side by
side with every character; Julia Alvarez’s book How The Garcia Girls Loose Their Accent is that type of book. Alvarez
tells the story of many immigrant families that have to leave their homes and
come to this country in search of a better future, or running away from a government
that is abusing the power that is  given
to them to run a country. Alvarez tells the story of those immigrant families
through the lives of the four Garcia Sisters, Carla, Sandra, Yolanda and Sofia
and their parents Carlos and Laura. The story starts in the 1980’s and works it
self in retrospective and different time frames and structure through the
Garcia sister’s adulthoods, adolescences, and girlhoods.

story is told backwards; a narrative structure that will allow the reader to
know how things will turn out to be. Julia Alvarez starts the story when the “four
girls” are adults some of them with a family of their own and Carlos and Laura
of old age. The story starts of with Yolanda visiting her homeland, the
Dominican Republic. Homeland which the
Garcia sisters enjoyed a traditional and sheltered childhood, typical of the
Dominican culture but at the same time they relished a luxurious childhood. A
life that all four girls alongside their parents had to leave behind when their
father Carlos got in trouble with the secrete police for stirring in
contradiction of Trujillo’s military dictatorship, the family solicited the
help of a CIA operative, Victor or as the Garcia family would could him Vic, to
get them out of the country. They flew to New York City where they had a hard
time adjusting culturally and materially to their new life away from home. It
was a total shock to go from living a wealthy and influential live style in the
Dominican Republic to having to become a middle class ” nobody” in the united
states. Fortunately Carlos counted with the help and support of Dr. Fanning who
helped Carlos get a medical fellowship to eventually opening his own practice
that would provide the income for him to send his daughters to good schools and
provide for his family in comfortable life. But life was not so easy for Carlos
and his family in the states. Carlos lived with the constant fear that he was
being followed by Trujillo’s secrete police every time his saw a black car
drive close to him since the secrete police was known for driving black
Volkswagens. He also had to start from cero; he had to face humiliation of
having to reestablish his professional reputation. Most importantly he also had
to deal with the difficult task of learning to accept that his daughters will
mature and assimilate into the American culture and the consequences this with
would along the road. As the girls grew older and they became more and more
accustomed to the American culture his fights with his daughter became more and
more present. Carlos would insist that they must behave as Dominican women
would. What he was asking from them was something a bit unrealistic since times
were not the same as when he was growing up. His daughters were young girls who
started to have trouble tolerating their father’s Dominican values when they
clashed with the American attitudes they started to adopt specifically
regarding sexuality, self independence and gender relations. Regardless of
these clashes with his daughters Carlos loved them dearly and just wanted the
best for his four girls. Like in many families there is that one parent that is
less hard and/or strict with their children and that was Laura. Laura loved her
family and was immensely proud of all of them; she portrays the typical loving
and devoted Dominican mother, who dedicates her life to her family leaving
behind her dreams and aspirations and puts her family first, she is the unity
and rock of the Garcia family. Although there was one parent who was stricter
than the other Carlos and Laura had one thing in common and that was their love
for “the four girls”, Carla, Sandra, Yolanda and Sophia.

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was the firstborn of the Garcia sisters. When the family moved to NYC Carla had
the most difficult time adjusting to this new lifestyle away from the life she
shared with her sisters in the Dominican Republic. Carla was bullied in school
and felt out of place because her limited English language skills. A very
unfortunate and disturbing time in her young life was the day she had an
encounter with a perverted American exhibitionist in a car. Because of these
difficult times in her young life time as well as many other reasons Carla
became a psychologist and used this profession as an instrument to analyze her
family’s countless mental issues. The second oldest daughter was Sandra. Sandra
dealt criticism for expressing herself, for expressing her hopes and desires.
In addition, she had to deal with the fact that her parents insisted that she
had to fit into a culture that she was not very fund of. Sandra as her sister
Carla also experienced an unpleasant moment when she witnessed Dr. Fanning’s
drunk wife kissed her father; not only did she had the misfortune of witnessing
this uncomfortable encounter but she also had to hide this from her mother and
sister as per her father’s request. As Sandra grew older and not being able to
express herself in an artistic or personal manner led her to a mental
breakdown. Sadly, Sandra was not the only sister to suffer a mental breakdown,
her sister Yolanda also experienced this illness after going through a painful
divorce and her difficulties with men. As a young girl Yolanda was the defiant
tomboy of the family when she lived in the Dominican Republic. Once she moved
to the U.S. she turned out to be a poet. Carlos and Laura did not only have one
daughter who was a rebel but they had two! And that was their youngest daughter,
Sophia. Sophia was wild and rebellious. She was that one daughter that challenged
her father’s authority. Sophia was the most rebellious out of all the other
sisters. She went from relationship to relationship. She embraced the “American
way” when it came to sexual relationships, a way that was not part of the
typical Dominican tradition when it came to relationships, the norm was to
remain virgin until marriage. Sophia had a tense and unreceptive relationship
with her father. Carlos and Sophia began to develop a better relationship once
Sophia got married with Otto a German she meets while in a trip she made to
Colombia and had children with.  

Alvarez presents three major themes in this novel, the roots of family
conflict, the problems posed by sexuality and the meaning of language. The
roots of the family conflicts originate from the very moment the family migrate
to the U.S. due to political and cultural rupture in the 1960’s during the “Trujillato”.

the girls grew older, the became significantly distant form one another, their
parents and their family in the Dominican Republic. Their assimilation into the
American culture isolates them form their roots which will eventually make it
harder for them to follow their parents more traditional viewpoints. Moreover,
there is the problems posed by sexuality which all four girls dealt with and
felt caught in the middle of.  In the
between the sexual and gender norms of Dominican tradition, enclosed within a
traditional Catholic belief and then an American/Feminist behavior. Sexuality
posed a problem for practically every character in the novel., i.e. Yolanda’s
encounter with her cousin “Mundin” who assured her the he would give her a
Human Body doll if she dropped her pants, “Mundin considered for a moment. A
sly little smile spread across his lips. It was like a liquid spilling and
staining some-thing it mustn’t. He lowered his voice. “Show me you’re a girl.”
(pp. 326).

meaning of language in the novel significantly impacted the sisters. One of the
most difficult for many immigrants and the language barrier they encounter in a
foreign country. Every member of the Garcia family had a different encounter
with language. Encounters that included idioms and difficulties communicating
with English speaking only individuals to the extent that it produced a feeling
of isolation and exclusion. Other themes that were present in this novel were family,
gender, social class and politics.

utilizes imagery, symbolism and allegory. An example in this novel is portrayed
in the island, the Dominican Republic. The island symbolizes home and a cage.
Home because this is what the sisters new as their first home before leaving to
the U.S. “Let this turn out to be my home, Yolanda wishes” (pp. 20), it was “paradise”
the perfect place but at the same time it was a cage to them, a place that
their parents would utilize to in a way keep them sheltered from the outside

all are the Garcia family. This family represents all of our families that come
from about country with different perspectives about life, other beliefs and
values. Families that have to become accustomed to new traditions in order to
fit in and survive in this country. For some families it is an easy task but
for the majority of families it is very difficult and frustrating, it is as if
one is starting from cero no matter what academic degree or level one may have
or to what social class you were once part of in your native country. The Garcia
girls lost their accent as soon as they adapted to the American culture.