A Decolonial View

By students in the Colonial and Postcolonial Master

Memory and Hybridity in How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents (1991)

Postat den 5th November, 2021, 13:23 av

Memory and hybridity are important concerns in migration literature. Expatriate authors write about vary from traditional English novels. How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents (1991) by Julia Alvarez is a novel about a Dominican family who move to the USA. The characters live in a hybrid and cultural context. It is difficult for them to overcome not only the language barriers but also the cultural shocks. They find themselves living in a hybrid condition that makes them belong to none. Physically, they feel restricted by cultural differences and language barriers in the USA; mentally they feel nostalgic about the glory of the past. The article sketches the role of memory and hybridity in forming identity.

Alvarez explores the psychological sense of exile of the family and offers intriguing points of cultural and personal hybridity. Her novel affirms the sense of nostalgia while the memory of the relocated peoples was reconstituted in terms of different times and locations. Even after people left their physical homelands, their memory froze mentally at the very moment of their migration. Accordingly, the girls’ mother says, “I want to forget the past” (Alvarez, 50). As we know, people’s relocation caused the inconsistent and fragmented cognition that what was bygone was no longer bygone. What has passed instead fermented in their deepest mind to form their memory? In this sense, it is natural the mother says “… would like to forget the past, but it is really only a small part of the recent past she would like to forget” (Alvarez 50).

Moreover, Yolanda, the third sister, takes on the role of the storyteller mostly in the novel. Yolanda has such literal talents that her mother has big dreams for her bright future. Her immigrant experience strengthens her comprehension of language power. As Hoffman states: “Words are inseparable from Yolanda’s identity: it is absolutely crucial that she chooses the accurate and appropriate word, that she constantly and properly identifies, describes, defines, redefines, and name everything from mere objects to relationships, even to herself” (23). Generally speaking, words are tools to communicate and to express oneself, however, Yolanda is obsessed with them because mastering a second language is a method for her to take root in America. In her view, words become significant elements to distinguish the new land and the old island.

Ironically, her return to the Dominican Republic is to reconnect with the roots of her family. She asserts her identity by shifting into English when she is frightened in the Dominican Republic; she speaks English subconsciously even though it is not her purpose for returning there. As we know, her journey is supposed to reconnect with the roots of her family. The first chapter, “Antojos” (Alvarez 3) is a good example of Yolanda’s heart even though she has no idea of the meaning of “Antojos”. Her craving for guavas reflects her unconscious “Antojos” that she does not even know herself. In this context, her homelands of fiction are located nowhere, but the craving for memory caused by the resettlement triggers her memory that is inherited from the past, which only exists mentally but not physically.

It is to say, the girls have hardships not only in the bilingual context but also in the cultural differences. We see all of the girls search for belonging owing to the unsuccessful assimilation. The Garcia girls try to retrieve the memory of the past even though the memory has faded away. Thus, eventually they lose not only their accents but also their identity.

In short, How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents shows the dilemma of immigrants, especially on memory and hybridity. The old memory brings their difficulties in assimilation; the hybrid languages and cultures create acculturation difficulty. The experiences of dealing with memory and hybridity are perpetual challenges of immigrant families.


Works Cited

Alvarez, J. (1991). How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents. New York: Algonquin Books.

Hoffman, Joan M. She Wants to Be Called Yolanda Now: Identity, Language, and the Third Sister in How the García Girls Lost Their Accents. Bilingual Review / La Revista Bilingüe, vol. 23, no. 1, 1998, pp. 21–27. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/25745393. Accessed 27 Apr. 2021.

Cheng-Fen Wang


Det här inlägget postades den November 5th, 2021, 13:23 och fylls under blogg

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