cover image The Other Side

The Other Side

Julia Alvarez. Dutton Books, $18.95 (192pp) ISBN 978-0-525-93922-1

Widely known for her novels, How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents and In the Time of the Butterflies, Latina author Alvarez claims her authority as a poet with this collection. Tracing a lyrical journey through the landscape of immigrant life, these direct, reflective and often sensuous poems are grouped into five sections which, like the points of a star, indicate a circle. Alvarez begins with ``Bilingual Sestina,'' a meditation on leaving her native Dominican Republic for an alien land and strange language. She ends with the title poem ``The Other Side/El Otro Lado,'' a long, multipart narrative recounting her return to her homeland as a woman transformed--translated--by the years she has lived in America from native to guest. The speaker may claim ``There is nothing left to cry for,/ nothing left but the story/ of our family's grand adventure/ from one language to another,'' but this poetry resonates precisely because that story embodies larger questions about self-identity. A meticulous examination of self-evolution, Alvarez's assured collection reveals that change can take us across borders so slowly that only on reaching the other side can we see the distances we've come. (June)