been too frightened to carry out any strategy, but now a road is
opening up before her. She clasps her hands on her chest—she can
feel her pounding heart—and nods. Then, as if the admission itself
loosens her tongue, she begins to speak, English, a few words, of
apology at first, then a great flood of explanation . . .
In Chapter 1,
Yolanda gets lost while gathering fresh guavas in the countryside,
and gets a flat tire. While stranded, two men approach and ask if
she needs help. She is frozen with terror until they ask if she
is an American. At this point, she begins speaking English, which
the men do not understand, and assents that she is indeed American.
This is ironic because the purpose for her trip to the Dominican
Republic was to assert her Dominican identity and connect to her
cultural and family roots. Yet, she fears interacting with Dominicans
outside the safety of the family compound. During this moment of
panic, she feels most comfortable pretending not to understand a
word of Spanish. Her behavior is considered strange by Dominican
standards, since a woman would not be out alone after dark looking
for fruit. She can only explain herself by remaining tightly enclosed
within her American identity and sticking to the English language.