Believe it or not, the inspiration for my independent reading book choice came from politics and its recent coverage in the news. With elections right around the corner, one particular issue seems to be addressed time and time again; How will each candidate deal with immigrants entering America illegally-specifically from our southern border? Candidates from all parties have their own opinions on the matter, but none of them know what it feels like to be an immigrant from a foreign country. Equally, neither do I. In order to learn more about the transformations immigrant families must undergo in order to fit in with societal norms, I followed the narrative of the García family written by Julia Alvarez; Their original situation in their home country and their transition into the American lifestyle.
The book is centered around the series of events concerning the García family and their immigration. The family consists of a mother and father-Laura and Carlos-accompanied by their four daughters: Carla, Sandra, Yolanda, and Sofía. The story begins (in chronological order) with the Garcías living in the Dominican Republic on private property surrounded by numerous members of their extended family. The Garcías are not only very rich and powerful, but also have connections with various government organizations, making them practically immune to any prosecution for wrong doings. All was well until Carlos, in his many attempts to undermine the Dominican dictatorship, was discovered and was then sought out by the Dominican Republic’s “secret police”. The Garcías’ connections sadly weren’t enough to save them this time, and were forced to flee the country to remain safe from the law. They seek refuge in the United States where they hope to begin anew and make the best of their unfortunate circumstances. What they weren’t expecting, though, was such immense lifestyle changes.
Unlike their previous arrangements in the Dominican Republic, the Garcías were very low on the American social food chain. Carlos and Laura struggled early on to find steady paying jobs, making life very difficult for the family of six. The four girls have a predicament of their own. In the Dominican Republic, the sisters were inseparable and always had each other’s backs when facing adversity. Although they still remained fairly close after the move, they had to deal with their problems independently more and more. The girls were constantly ridiculed at school for being immigrants and were often times taken advantage of for not knowing much english. Their individual negative experiences traumatized the girls for the rest of their lives, making their immigration an even more haunting experience. Especially as they grew older, the girls continued to grow farther from each other and their original family roots, demonstrating the power of americanization.
Julia Alvarez, author of How the García Girls Lost Their Accents, creates a masterpiece that lives up to its title of a national best seller. Being a Dominican immigrant herself, she blends her personal feelings about being a foreigner with the story creating a realistic and compelling story. What’s especially interesting is that Alvarez chose to chronicle her story in reverse chronological order. This strategy keeps you begging for information as you continue to discover more about the experiences of the Garía family, giving a slight mystery vibe to the book.
Overall, reading this book gave me useful insight to the changes immigrants must make in their lives to survive in their new country. I would recommend How the García Girls Lost Their Accents to anyone who is interested in learning about the sacrifices taken by immigrants to survive in a foreign country.
Book Review by Johnathan Toloff