Julia Alvarez's first novel, the semi-autobiographical How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents, gained generally favorable reviews and brought her work to the attention of a wide group of critics and readers. Most reviewers praise the novel's exploration of a Dominican-American family's struggle with assimilation and the resulting clash between Hispanic and American cultures. The novel's collection of fifteen short stories relates, in reverse chronological order, the experiences of the de la Torre-Garcia family: patriarch Carlos (Papi), mother Laura (Mami), and their four daughters— Carla, Sandra, Yolanda, and Sofia. The stories begin in 1989 with Yolanda's visit to her native country, the Dominican Republic, and work backward to 1956, before the family immigrated to New York City. The years in between are filled with the difficult process of acculturation for all members of the family. Donna Rifkind, in the New York Times Book Review, writes that Alvarez has "beautifully captured the threshold experiences of the new immigrant, where the past is not yet a memory and the future remains an anxious dream." Jason Zappe similarly notes in The American Review that "Alvarez speaks for many families and brings to light the challenges faced by many immigrants. She shows how the tensions of successes and failures don't have to tear families apart."