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Something to Declare

Essays

Julia Alvarez

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Description

In her first book of nonfiction, Julia Alvarez takes us behind the scenes and shares the lessons she's learned on her way to becoming an internationally acclaimed novelist. In 1960, when Alvarez was ten years old, her family fled the Dominican Republic. Her father participated in a failed coup attempt against the dictator Rafael Trujillo, and exile to the United States was the only way to save his life. The family settled in New York City, where Dr. Alvarez set up a medical practice in the Bronx while his wife and four daughters set about the business of assimilation--a lifelong struggle. Loss of her native land, language, culture, and extended family formed the thematic basis for two of Julia Alvarez's three best-selling novels--HOW THE GARCIA GIRLS LOST THEIR ACCENTS and its sequel, YO! Her father's revolutionary ties inspired IN THE TIME OF THE BUTTERFLIES, her historical novel about one of Trujillo's most infamous atrocities. SOMETHING TO DECLARE offers an extraordinary collection of essays that deal with the two big issues of Alvarez's life--growing up with one foot in each culture and writing. The twelve essays that make up "Customs," the first of two parts, examine the specific effects of exile on this writer. The essays are personal--how her maternal grandfather passed along his love of the arts, how the nuclear family-in-exile snuggled down every year to watch the Miss America contest from the parental bed, how Julia feared her family might disown her upon publication of her first novel. In the second half, "Declarations," are twelve essays about writing that range from confession of Alvarez's means of supporting her writing habit to the gritty details of her actual process. Every one of these essays is warm, open, honest, and generous. SOMETHING TO DECLARE will appeal not only to her many fans, but to students of writing at all levels.

Publishers Weekly Review

Aug 03, 1998 – Having transformed her tumultuous life story--a passage from childhood in the Dominican Republic and Queens, N.Y., to a career as a celebrated author and creative writing teacher--into a body of startlingly lyrical fiction and poetry ( Yo!, etc.), Alvarez here chronicles that journey in nonfiction form. These 24 autobiographical essays are meant to answer various questions her readers have posed about her life and her writing. For Alvarez, these questions ultimately can be summed up in one line: "Do you have anything more to declare?" The first section of the book, "Customs," paints with vibrant, earthy clarity--in classic Alvarez style--the author's Dominican girlhood, surrounded by the rich cast of characters that made up her extended family and the constant menace of dictator Rafael Trujillo's police state. She also describes her escape to the U.S. with her parents and sisters, along with the assimilation that made her a "hyphenated American." The seeds of her writerly beginnings are picked out here and then further explored in the second part of her book, "Declarations." These essays examine the difficult balance between the writing life and "real life"; the joys of teaching; the daily process of writing; and an unsuccessful trip to Necedeh, Wis., to research a potential novel. Alvarez also includes her "ten commandments" for writing, which consist of some of the author's favorite quotes (beginning with a Zen saying and ending with Samuel Johnson's well-known credo, "If you want to be a writer, then write. Write every day!"). Taken together, the pieces are as open and lively as Alvarez's readers have come to expect from her work, although the inspiration and guidance they offer to aspiring writers are less striking. FYI: Plume has just published the Spanish-language edition of Alvarez's second novel, In the Time of the Butterflies; Plume's Spanish edition of Yo! will be out in 1999.
Something to Declare
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  • $9.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Biographies & Memoirs
  • Published: Aug 01, 1998
  • Publisher: Algonquin Books
  • Seller: Workman Publishing Co., Inc.
  • Print Length: 300 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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