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After arriving in the United States, Laura would take
the girls window- shopping in department stores and try to invent
things. At night she would lie in bed and sketch out household inventions
and strange contraptions, like a child's double-compartment drinking glass
with a straw. She thought it was a problem that her daughters wanted
to become Americans and would argue with them in English, throwing
in odd and confused idioms like "green behind the ears." She felt
that she was a good Dominican mother, but a failure as an American
One night, she showed Yolanda a sketch of a car bumper
with a removable can opener attached, which she thought would be
convenient for picnickers. Her daughters felt frustrated that she
was not able to better help them explore their identities as immigrants
and withstand the pressures of discrimination and assimilation that
they faced going to American schools. They felt that her inventions
were a waste of time that she could have spent better supporting
their efforts to fit into American culture. Though her mother compared her
own creative effort to Yolanda's poetry writing, her daughter still
disregarded the inventions. The daughters humored her because they
realize that their mother's social status evaporated when she came
to the United States, and she needed to create a new identity out
of more than class snobbery. She became frustrated that she could
not turn her good ideas into profitable business ventures, so she
decided to organize her husband's office instead.
While in school, Yolanda was chosen to write a speech
to be given to her class. She was embarrassed by her accent and
feared being humiliated in front of her unfriendly and foreign peers.
Her mother offered to help, but Yolanda wanted to do it herself.
Carlos offered advice in Spanish, but the sisters did not understand
most of his formal diction. She was inspired by reading Walt Whitman
and wrote the speech quickly, finally satisfied that she sounded
like herself in English. Her father was concerned with the political
situation in the Dominican Republic and was considering returning
the family to the Island. He was also scandalized by Yolanda's insubordinate
and disrespectful attitude towards teachers, plagiarized from Whitman.
Yolanda's mother defended the speech and further angered her father,
who feared a house full of independent and Americanized women. He
tore the speech into pieces, leading Yolanda to call him "Chapita,"
the nickname used for Trujillo, the dictator of the Dominican Republic.
Yolanda ran into her bedroom and locked the door until her mother
came to help her write a new speech. Though full of bland platitudes,
the schoolteachers liked it. Her father came home the next day with
a new electric typewriter for Yolanda, and apologized for his behavior.
After helping her daughter write the speech, Laura Garcia never
Laura Garcia's attempts to invent useful and profitable
household gadgets reflect her desire to find a place for herself
within the stereotypical American dream. Because her roles as a
mother and wife have changed since the move from the Dominican Republic
to the United States, she hopes to reinvent her own identity through
her family and her new home. This process draws on the spirit of
Whitman, who sang himself into being in Leaves of Grass, and
reflects a particularly American way of seeing the creation of one's
Yolanda's struggle to write in English and create a speech
that reflects her own spirit mirrors her mother's struggle to come
up with inventions that actually make sense. Her difficulty articulating
her perspectives through the idioms of her new language also matches her
daughter's trouble finding her own voice in English. These reasons
contribute to Laura's sympathy for her daughter and pride in the
speech that she first writes. Yolanda's first speech embodies the American
attitude that encourages intellectual independence and aesthetic
risk- taking, which she first encounters in Whitman's writings.
Her father's anger stems from his adherence to traditional Dominican
values, which place importance on a child's obedient and humble
submission to religious, parental and educational authority. Her
mother does not see her speech as evidence of disobedience and disrespect
because she appreciates the risks her daughter is willing to take
to forge a new American identity for herself. Yolanda's response,
comparing her father to the dictator Trujillo, draws attention to
the aspects of American culture and society that her father left
the Dominican Republic to embrace. She implies that blind submission
to political authority represents the essence of dictatorship, injustice,
and abuse of authority. Yolanda wants her father to recognize that
he cannot encourage her to integrate herself into American society
without also accepting the aspects of intellectual and civic liberty
that do not easily fit into traditional Dominican culture.
The reconciliation between father and daughter reflects
his willingness to let her invent herself as she must to fit into
American culture, and his desire to encourage her ambition and talent
through writing. Yolanda's second speech serves as a compromise
between the American intellectual revolutionary and the Dominican
traditionalist sides of her personality. Her mother helps her to
integrate these two aspects of her heritage before discarding her
hopes of fame and riches as an inventor. This may indicate Laura's
disillusionment with the American dream, or her satisfaction with
the role she has created for herself as a wife and mother to a Dominican
family living in the United States.
Ace your assignments with our guide to How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents!