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Something to Declare: Essays

af Julia Alvarez

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261276,208 (3.77)8
In 24 autobiographical essays, the author presents her Dominican childhood, her family's immigration to the United States, her college years, writing, marriages, & return trips to her homeland. 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.… (mere)

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This book is a collection of autobiographical essays by Julia Alvarez. In the essays, she writes about things such as coming to the United States from the Dominican Republic as a child, cooking and gardening, and her experiences with writing.

One of her essays was about research she was doing for a book about a woman in Necedah, Wisconsin who was had visions of the Virgin Mary and established a cult following. It was interesting to read about the ideas she had for the book and how they were transformed during her visit to Necedah, and how she ultimately decided it wasn't a book she could write. I guess I'm just fascinated by the writing process.

I have this image of my favorite authors sitting down to write and the words just instantly flowing poetically from their pens or computers. Alvarez writes a lot about the struggles and insecurities that accompany her writing, which I never really think about. Understanding her writing process makes her writing even more engaging. Her essays very beautifully describe the experience I have while reading well written literature.

I would recommend this book to anyone, especially my sisters who are interested in writing. ( )
  klburnside | Aug 11, 2015 |
Wow - I loved this book! I am only sorry that I let it sit so long before choosing it from my shelf. I thought I would read one essay at a time over a few weeks it basically read it in 2 sittings. I have read some of this author's novels and poems and love her voice. Reading these essays was the same experience - a rich and satisfying menu of stories that tell of transition, commitment, and the need to honor a life of words. I love this sentence: "In a world without any books, we would not be the same kind of critter." Amen to that! ( )
  Lcwilson45 | Jul 13, 2013 |
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In 24 autobiographical essays, the author presents her Dominican childhood, her family's immigration to the United States, her college years, writing, marriages, & return trips to her homeland. 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.

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