How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents by Julia Alvarez

December 28, 2010
By GirlDreamer GOLD, Doraville, Georgia
GirlDreamer GOLD, Doraville, Georgia
15 articles 36 photos 13 comments

Favorite Quote:
“Hold fast to dreams for when dreams go, life is a barren field frozen with snow.” Langston Hughes

“Home sweet home!” This is a common phrase which people use to express their love for home, but what if the place they thought was home no longer felt like home? The Garcia girls’ integration into the American culture tears them apart from their Hispanic roots. Therefore, their feelings about home are mixed up with childhood reminiscence and adulthood vagueness. They become too Americanized and lose the values that form their ethnic and national heritage. The four characters grow from being the “Garcia girls” to each individual: Carla, Sandi, Yolanda and Sophia.
At the beginning of the novel, one of the Garcia girls, Yolanda, returns home to the Islands. However, Yolanda can not integrate herself into Dominican society as if she has never left. She has forgotten much of her Spanish and cannot express herself well. She distrusts the Hispanic men who try to help fix her car and she speaks English to them. Her mistrust reflects her fear of home, the Dominican Republic. Although Yolanda is at her homeland, she feels like a stranger and is more comfortable when treated as a foreigner. The guavas Yolanda craves symbolized her desire to reconnect with her childhood memories. However, her twenty-nine years living in the USA has shaped her identity, so she can only return to her homeland as an outsider.
The kitten mentioned in the novel is a symbolism of the Garcia sisters. Just like how the kitty was taken from its mother and was too young to survive on its own, the girls were taken from their motherland and were too young to survive on their own. The mother cat symbolized their home, the Dominican Republic. Schwarz, the kitten, which became wounded during the abrupt transition, reflected how the Garcia girls were emotionally and psychologically injured during their integration to a new cultural environment. They suffered from abusiveness, bullying, and depression .The kitten became lost and could not return to the coal shed, just as how the girls feel as adults; they were unable to find their roots. This illustrated the impossibility of regaining a place in the Dominican culture. Despite the intimacy they felt toward their home, they also felt alienated and lost their sense of belonging.
Originated from different country, I have also experienced the mixed feelings of home.I was born in South Vietnam, in the countryside where the road is red dirt and the field is filled with acres of rice and the mountains loomed overhead. At the age of nine, my mother, sister, and I moved to America to reunite with my father in the US.
I remembered at that time, I had never heard of computers, cell phones, or CDs player. Jeans and T-shirts felt awkward and new to me, and even the mattress bed was unfamiliar compared to my wooden one at home. At school, I suffered from constant teasing about my native language and my futile effort to speak English. I missed Vietnam, waking up the sound of the roosters and smelling the fresh air of early dawn. I missed eating guavas, fresh coconuts, sweet papayas that grew right from the trees in my own backyard.
However, over time, just like the Garcia sisters, I adapted to the American cultures. America has technologies and inventions that make our life fast and convenient. Yet over time, we lose patience and the meanings of old traditions. Similar to the girls, as I grew older, a gap between my parents and I grew wider. They criticize me for being too opinionated, my impatience, and my perky sense of style. I find it difficult to discuss with them my emotional issues and my life in general.
However, what marked the realization of how Americanized I’ve become was the summer trip I took to Vietnam 3 years ago. After living in the USA for four years, my family and I went back to Vietnam for a visit. I noticed how awkward it was for me to speak to my relatives and I envied the bond, which I lacked, that the cousins shared among each other. They used puns and jokes with Vietnamese words which I didn’t connect. The words that slipped out of my tongues were English and Vietnamese words felt rusty. The elders criticized me for my short and dyed hairstyle. I also stood out physically with my jeans and T- shirts which I once found uncomfortable. After a while, like the Garcia girls, I missed the Americas. I felt homesick in my own home!
Nevertheless, the visit Vietnam was memorable and sweet. I got to see my grandma, my relatives and old friends. I enjoyed the simple Vietnamese life and breathtaking sceneries. These moments brought back to the experiences I had from the past in Vietnam. My most precious moments were lying in the hammock with my grandma sang to me childhood lullabies and harvesting the rice fields. I feel of my home as a refuge across the world, safe from America’s hectic lifestyle and the shelter of my past.

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