"Names/Nombres" is a actually less a story, and more a personal essay. Rather than creating a fictional plot and characters, Julia Alvarez is reflecting on her own experiences and combining them to make a point. "Names/Nombres" has a central thesis – that one's name is central to one's identity.
Throughout the story, Alvarez demonstrates her conflicting feelings towards the mispronunciations and Americanized nicknames inflicted on her by the people she meets after moving to New York City from the Dominican Republic. While she is exasperated by the immigration official and apartment super who mispronounce her last name ("How could anyone get Elbures out of that orchestra of sound?"), she also enjoys reshaping her identity with the flashy nicknames her American classmates give her. She describes wanting her Dominican extended family to go back where they came from and
"leave me to pursue whatever mischief I wanted to in America. JUDY ALCATRAZ, the name on the “Wanted” poster would read. Who would ever trace her to me?"
For Alvarez, as a middle and high school student in the 1950s, the best thing to do is to blend in. She describes brushing away fellow classmates who ask her where she's "originally from" and shocking them when she rattles off her full, 12-word-long name. She describes the difficulty of introducing her complicated extended family at graduation.
But as she ends the piece, Alvarez shows that she is thankful for her large, foreign family. As she opens her graduation presents, including a typewriter to write her stories, she thinks toward the future: as a famous author, which name will she go by? Years later, readers have the answer. Under her Dominican name, Julia Alvarez has written many short stories, personal essays, and novels that show that her identity, like her name, is still centered in her Dominican heritage.