Book summary: Something to Declare: Essays

1998 BY JULIA ALVAREZ

“Julia Alvarez has suitcases full of history (public and private), trunks full of insights into what it means to be a Latina in the United States, bags full of literary wisdom.” —Los Angeles Times From the internationally acclaimed author of the bestselling novels In the Time of the Butterflies and How the García Girls Lost Their Accents comes a rich and revealing work of nonfiction capturing the life and mind of an artist as she knits together the dual themes of coming to America and becoming a writer. The twenty-four confessional, evocative essays that make up Something to Declare are divided into two parts. “Customs” includes Alvarez’s memories of her family’s life in the Dominican Republic, fleeing from Trujillo’s dictatorship, and arriving in America when she was ten years old. She examines the effects of exile--surviving the shock of New York City life; yearning to fit in; training her tongue (and her mind) to speak English; and watching the Miss America pageant for clues about American-style beauty. The second half, “Declarations,” celebrates her passion for words and the writing life. She lets us watch as she struggles with her art--searching for a subject for her next novel, confronting her characters, facing her family’s anger when she invades their privacy, reflecting on the writers who influenced her, and continually honing her craft.

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