Most reviewers heralded Julia Alvarez’s How the García Girls Lost Their Accents as a credible, substantive, easily read, and often humorous exploration of how immigrants struggle to find their identities when transplanted into a foreign culture. Since its publication, the novel has risen to the status of a near-classic in Latino/Latina literature because it captures the conflict between Latino and European cultures in the New World. The book explores the influence of family, culture, and religion on the maturation of young women who must grapple with two radically different sets of expectations. The García sisters endure the pains of the acculturation process and the shame of being different, feeling rejected and alone both in their new home and in their original home, to which they cannot comfortably return.
The book’s reverse chronological order and lack of a unifying plot garnered praise from most critics, although some disparaged Alvarez for inconsistency of style, immaturity of voice, and inadequate linkage of the book’s fifteen discrete episodes. Most critics, however, suggested that the unusual approach challenged readers to question their assumptions about what assimilation into a foreign culture means. Reviewers asserted that the book’s disjointed presentation paralleled the sisters’ insecurity. It reveals that the García girls cannot adapt easily; they are forever torn between their Dominican roots and the American personae they adopt. Religion pays a part in their conflicts; for example, Yolanda’s doomed romance with Rudy embodies a conflict between her strict Catholic upbringing and her emerging agnosticism. Changes in economic status make the adjustment harder, too. The girls were born to privilege in the...
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