Something to Declare
Something to Declare
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Annotation: Collection of essays by the novelists and poet describing life in two cultures and her thoughts on writing.
Catalog Number: #600284650
Format: Ebook
All Formats: Search
Special Formats: Ebook Ebook
Publisher: Workman Pub. Co.
Copyright Date: 1998
Edition Date: 1998
Pages: 300
Territory: North America
Availability: Available
ISBN: 1-565-12839-7
ISBN 13: 978-1-565-12839-2
Dewey: 814
Language: English
Reviews:
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
TEN OF MY WRITING COMMANDMENTS

I. In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities. In the expert's mind there are few.

--ZEN MASTERS

II. The obligation of the artist is not to solve the problem but to state the problem correctly.

--ANTON CHEKHOV

III. Do not be afraid!

--ANGELS APPEARING TO SHEPERDS TENDING THEIR FLOCKS BY NIGHT

IV. If you bring forth what is inside you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is inside you, what is inside you will destroy you.

--ST. THOMAS, GNOSTIC GOSPELS

V. Poetry presents the thing in order to convey the feeling. It should be precise about the thing and reticent about the feeling.

--WEI T'AI

VI. One must write a poem the way one rules an empire, the way one cooks a small fish.

--AUTHOR UNKNOWN

VII. El papel lo aguanta todo. (Paper holds everything.)

--MAMI

VIII. You must change your life.

--RAINER MARIA RILKE

IX. The function of freedom is to free someone else.

--TONI MORRISON

X. If you want to be a writer, than write. Write every day!

--SAMUEL JOHNSON

Excerpted from Something to Declare Copyright (c) 1998 Julia Alvarez. Reprinted by permission of Algonquin.



Excerpted from Something to Declare: Essays by Julia Alvarez
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

“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.

The winner of the National Medal of Arts for her extraordinary storytelling, Julia Alvarez here offers essays that are an inspiring gift to readers and writers everywhere.

“This beautiful collection of essays . . . traces a process of personal  reconciliation with insight, humor, and quiet power.”  —San Francisco Examiner and Chronicle

“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 bighearted, wisecracking friend share the hard-earned wisdom about family, identity, and the art of writing.” —People


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