Something to Declare
Something to Declare
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Annotation: Collection of essays by the novelist and poet describing life in two cultures and her thoughts on writing.
Catalog Number: #277093
Format: Perma-Bound Edition
All Formats: Search
Special Formats: Inventory Sale Inventory Sale
Copyright Date: 1998
Edition Date: 1999
Pages: xiv, 300 p.
Availability: Available
ISBN: Publisher: 0-452-28067-2 Perma-Bound: 0-605-95507-7
ISBN 13: Publisher: 978-0-452-28067-0 Perma-Bound: 978-0-605-95507-3
Dewey: 814
LCCN: 98020994
Dimensions: 21 cm.
Language: English
ALA Booklist
Readers can sense the bright flame of Alvarez's young self in her exuberant novels, and that same energy animates her essays, whether she's describing her Dominican Republic childhood or her life in the U.S. Two themes shape her first nonfiction collection: family and literature. In her familial recollections, she emerges as the most rebellious of four sisters and nearly the only one in the entire clan to be bookstruck. This love of reading proved providential because books helped her cope with her family's abrupt move to New York City (a leave-taking necessitated by her parents' resistance work against the island's dictatorship) and the long struggle to feel comfortable in a culture that automatically stigmatized her and her relatives by virtue of their accents and appearance. As she moves on to contrast the dynamics of family life with the solitude of writing, Alvarez ends up sharing her views on such personal matters as food, marriage, and the decision not to be a mother, all the while exuding an easy charm that almost succeeds in concealing the tremendous force of her will. (Reviewed August 1998)
Kirkus Reviews
The much-praised poet and novelist Alvarez (Yo!, 1997; How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents, 1991; etc.) offers a set of essays and reminiscences, all previously published in magazines or anthologies. The first half of the book consists of short memoirs dealing mostly with her life as a cultural and ethnic hybrid: she was born in Trujillo's Dominican Republic but escaped that dictatorship with her family (her father opposed the government) and moved to the US. Appealingly, however, Alvarez wears her troubles lightly. For instance, as she tells it, in New York City she and her three sisters liked to watch the Miss America pageant, yet worried they—d never fit in here because they looked and spoke so differently from the supposed American ideal. Even so, pretty soon their own looks became fashionable. Gracious and urbane, the author doesn—t whine about ethnic victimization in America, though she experienced her share of it. Her voice—that of a voluble friend full of experiences to confide—brings comfort; she persuades us that interethnic harmony may be possible. Her warm personality shines through and keeps one reading. The collection's second half, though also memoiristic, concerns more frontally her experiences as a feminist and a writer determined to succeed against the odds. Alvarez waxes pat on this theme. Seemingly caught up in the feminist movement's now-conventional rhetoric, she defines herself and her victories too narrowly. Why, for example, must Maxine Hong Kingston be the preferred role model, and not Gertrude Stein or Susan Sontag, Angela Carter or Christa Wolf? Why shouldn't Alvarez seek to establish her identity and place in the larger world of letters, too, rather than mainly in the paradoxically exclusive province of gender and ethnicity? At moments she almost addresses such issues but on the whole avoids asking herself hard questions. A pleasing but not probing foray by the author into herself and others.
School Library Journal
YA-The poet and novelist brings together two dozen pithy autobiographical essays that are by turn humorous, thoughtful, or frightening. The first third of the book follows Alvarez's early Dominican childhood-when she was one of the wild cousins who was seated between well-behaved ones at family gatherings-through her family's immigration to the United States and their assimilation. Later essays take up the author's college years, budding career as a writer, marriages, and return trips to the Dominican Republic. Alvarez presents her personal experiences with a literary skill that converts them into universal moments. This book will delight her fans, attract new readers to her previous work, and open the possibility for discussions about experiences with emigration, immigration, growing apart from one's family, and discovering one's own career path and status as an adult.-Francisca Goldsmith, Berkeley Public Library, CA
Word Count: 79,369
Reading Level: 7.2
Interest Level: 9+
Accelerated Reader: reading level: 7.2 / points: 14.0 / quiz: 77436 / grade: Upper Grades
Lexile: 1100L

"Reading Julia Alvarez's new collection of essays is like curling up with a glass of wine in one hand and the phone in the other, listening to a big-hearted, wisecracking friend share hard-earned wisdom about family, identity, and the art of writing." - People The rich and revealing essays in Something to Declare offer Julia Alvarez's dual meditations on coming to America and becoming a writer. In the first section, "Customs," Alvarez relates how she and her family fled the Dominican Republic and its oppressive dictator, Rafael Trujillo, settling in New York City in the 1960s. Here Julia begins a love affair with the English language under the tutelage of the aptly named Sister Maria Generosa. Part Two-"Declarations"-celebrates Alvarez's enduring passion for the writing life. From the valentine to mythic storyteller Scheherazade that is "First Muse," to a description of Alvarez's itinerant life as a struggling poet, teacher, and writer in "Have Typewriter, Will Travel," to the sage and witty advice of "Ten of My Writing Commandments," Alvarez generously shares her influences and inspirations with aspiring writers everywhere.

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