Reading How the García Girls Lost Their Accents made me really want to re-read The House on Mango Street. Not because I remember really liking it when I read it in school, but because I think I have a little bit more maturity to appreciate it now, and because it’s also a book composed of vignettes that represents a particular Latina immigrant experience. But I don’t remember it very well, so I am curious why one gets picked to be read in schools, and this one, the other one, I hadn’t heard of until it was picked for book club.
How the García Girls Lost Their Accents moves backward from the time that the four”Girls” — Carla, Sandra, Yolanda, and Sofia — are adult women having formally lived in the United States for longer than they ever did in their native Dominican Republic. As adults, they have experienced racism, isolation, and more, but they’ve also internalized US cultural customs and as such find themselves no longer fully comfortable living within the standards expected of them by their remaining relations in the Dominican Republic.
In truth, I don’t know how to “review” this book. I was interested in the stories being told, but I found it on the whole to be rather dispassionately written, even considering the volatility of some of the subject matter and the strong emotional responses on display within the vignettes. The perceived layer of remove made it difficult for me to truly connect viscerally with the stories, and I wish I could have more. Additionally, the collection of stories lacked true cohesion. Just being about the same people and following a loose trajectory of time does not a complete novel make, and the stories themselves were kind of all over the place in what they meant to — and successfully did — convey. I guess I’m just a little disappointed, but I feel like it’s very condescending of me to express it that way. Books like this, that are about a minority experience, are in some sense, not for me to critique. They’re personal for the author, and they’re what the author chose to share. By what standards do I get to decide that their choices don’t “work”? (Or is this just white guilt?)
The boring bottom line is that How the García Girls Lost Their Accents has a lot of potential, and how far that potential goes is probably variable from reader to reader.