cover image How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents

How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents

Julia Alvarez. Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, $18.95 (308pp) ISBN 978-0-945575-57-3

The chronicle of a family in exile that is forced to find a new identity in a new land, these 15 short tales, grouped into three sections, form a rich, novel-like mosaic. Alvarez, whose first fiction this is, has an ear for the dialogue of non-natives, and the strong flavors of Dominican syntax and cultural values permeate these pages. Many parallels may be drawn between these stories and Amy Tan's The Joy Luck Club. Central to both are young, first generation American females in rebellion against their immigrant elders, and in both books the stories pile up with layers of multiple points of view and overlapping experiences, building to a sense of family myths in the making. The four Garcia daughters, whom we meet as adults but then re-encounter as children as the narrative flows backward in time, are accustomed to a prestigious perch in Spanish Caribbean society. But political upheavals force Papi and Mami to seek refuge in a more modest way of life in the Bronx, and their little girls become transplants who thrive and desire a far bigger embrace of this new world than the elder Garcias can contemplate or accept. This is an account of parallel odysseys, as each of the four daughters adapts in her own way, and a large part of Alvarez's Gar cia's accomplishment is the complexity with which these vivid characters are rendered. (May)