How the García Girls Lost Their Accents
Translated By: Nermin Nizar
The novel’s major themes include acculturation and coming of age. It deals with the myriad hardships of immigration, painting a vivid picture of the struggle to assimilate, the sense of displacement, and the confusion of identity suffered by the García family, as they are uprooted from familiarity and forced to begin a new life in New York City. The text consists of fifteen interconnected short stories, each of which focuses on one of the four daughters, and in a few instances, the García family as a whole. Although it is told from alternating perspectives there is particular focus throughout the text on the character of Yolanda, who is said to be both the protagonist and the author’s alter ego.
The novel is written episodically and in reverse-chronological order. It consists of fifteen chapters in three parts: Part I (1989–1972), Part II (1970–1960), and Part III (1960–1956). Part I is centered on the adult lives of the García sisters; Part II describes their immigration to the United States and their adolescence, and Part III recollects their early childhood on the island, in the Dominican Republic.
The Garcías are one of the Dominican Republic’s prominent and wealthy families, tracing their roots back to the Conquistadores. Carlos García, a physician and the head of the family, is the youngest of 35 children his father sired during his lifetime, both in and out of wedlock. Laura, Carlos’s wife, also comes from an important family: her father is a factory owner and a diplomat with the United Nations. Many members of the extended family live as neighbours in large houses on an expansive compound with numerous servants. In the early 1950s the García girls are born. Carla, Sandra, Yolanda and Sofía enjoy a happy, protected childhood and are brought up by their parents, aunts and uncles to preserve the family traditions. Their countless cousins serve them as playmates.