How The Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents

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Immigrants come to America, the revered City upon a Hill, with wide eyes and high hopes, eager to have their every dream and wild reverie fulfilled. Rarely, if ever, is this actually the case. A select few do achieve the stereotypical ‘rags to riches’ transformation – thus perpetuating the myth. The Garcia family from Julia Alvarez’s book How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents, fall prey to this fairytale. They start off the tale well enough: the girls are treated like royalty, princesses of their Island home, but remained locked in their tower, also known as the walls of their family compound. The family is forced to flee their Dominican Republic paradise – which they affectionately refer to as simply, the Island – trading it instead for the cold, mean streets of American suburbs. After a brief acclimation period, during which the girls realize how much freedom is now available to them, they enthusiastically try to shed their Island roots and become true “American girls.” They throw themselves into the American lifestyle, but there is one slight snag in their plan: they, as a group, are unable to forget their Island heritage and upbringing, despite how hard they try to do so. The story of the Garcia girls is not a fairytale – not of the Disney variety anyway; it is the story of immigrants who do not make the miraculous transition from rags to riches, but from stifling social conventions to unabridged freedom too quickly, leaving them with nothing but confusion and unresolved questions of identity. This bewilderment is not limited to just the girls either; the parents experience their fair share of perplexity at the chaos that is America. Unlike their offspring, Mr. and Mrs. Garcia work to retain and remember their Island roots... ... middle of paper ... ... level of self-awareness is necessary to navigate this journey effectively, traits which the family simply does not have. Yolanda has potential to reach some level of self-awareness and thought during her college years, but this hope is considerably dimmed as she becomes increasingly torn between her two cultures. Yolanda is the main narrator in this novel and still has a possibility, albeit slim, of a happy future. This cannot possible be achieved without thought, actual, conscious thought as to how she is going to turn her life around and make her blended cultures something for others to admire rather than something to be ashamed of. American literature does not highly value many novels pertaining to immigrants, however, it would have been helpful for them to absorb and apply the tenets of Transcendentalism and American literature in general to aid the transition.

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