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This family epic follows several generations
of the Garcia and de la Torre families as they struggle to hold
together a sense of family solidarity in the midst of migration,
divorces, family disputes, and cultural change. Like the Garcia
sisters, Julia Alvarez was born in the Dominican Republic and immigrated
to the United States in 1960. This
was her first novel, followed by several others also dealing with Dominican
women immigrants. The novel was written during a period of increased
immigration from the Dominican Republic when the community of Dominicans
living in the United States expanded. Along with other writers and
artists, Alvarez contributed to the articulation of a new Dominican-
American identity. In addition, this novel shares a space along
with other works written by Caribbean immigrants concerned with
exploring the experience of Spanish speakers and their descendants
in the United States. The geographic proximity of the U.S., as well
as its historical and continuing political influence in this region,
distinguishes the experiences of these communities from other immigrant
Alvarez's protagonists share some things in common with
the typical Dominican immigrant experience, such as the painful
dislocation of family ties and difficult cultural readjustments.
It is important to keep in mind, however, that most Dominicans living
in the U.S. did not come from the privileged background that the
Garcia family enjoyed. Though the girls dwell on the financial hardship they
faced during the first year of life in the U.S., the family drew
on tremendous financial and political resources that many Dominicans did
not enjoy. They perceive hardship only in comparison to the lavish
and luxurious lifestyle they were used to in the Dominican Republic,
where different economic conditions meant that the family could
afford numerous servants and expansive estates. Even in the United
States, the girls were given expensive private education and numerous
opportunities to travel. In this sense, the novel does not represent
the typical Dominican immigrant experience. However, it contributed
to mainstream awareness of the differences between American and
Dominican culture, as well as the psychological difficulties facing
children who are forced to suddenly move from one cultural context
For Hispanic communities in the United States, the question
of whether the Garcia girls have truly lost their accents is a critical
one. Hispanic communities have not integrated into the mainstream
in the same ways that previous immigrant communities have, indicating
the differences between previous patterns of migration and the current
pressures that Hispanics face. Alvarez's novel illustrates a desire
to retain access to the language and culture of the home nation
while also incorporating oneself into the new country's culture,
economy and political system.
Ace your assignments with our guide to How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents!