Something to Declare Questions and Answers
by Julia Alvarez

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How does life change in 1960

In 1960, when Julia Alvarez was ten years old, her father was involved in a failed plot to overthrow the dictator of the Dominican Republic, Rafael Trujillo. The Alvarez family, therefore, fled to New York City to begin a new life.

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Julia Alvarez was born in New York City, but lived most of her early life in the Dominican Republic. In 1960, when she was ten years old, her father participated in a plot to overthrow the island's dictator, Rafael Trujillo, whose thirty-year rule had been marked by extreme bloodshed and repression. When the plot failed, the Alvarez family fled to New York, where Julia began a very different life.

In her first essay collection, Something to Declare, Alvarez explores the effect that coming to the United States had on her life. In "Our Papers," she describes the obstacles her father had to surmount to bring his family to America, as well as the wrench of leaving her comfortable life in the Dominican Republic and her extended network of cousins and aunts. Alvarez also talks about the challenge of learning English, a theme to which she returns in the essay "My English." The language which her mother and father had once used when they wanted to keep a secret from the children has now become the medium of expression she has to use every day, and which she is ridiculed by her classmates for speaking imperfectly. However, it is her eventual mastery of English, and her growing sense of vocation to be a writer, that finally gives Alvarez the sense that she is "no longer a foreigner with no ground to stand on."