Family Drama; Coming-of-Age; Autobiography; Postmodernism
We could think of How the García Girls Lost Their Accents as an example of each of these categories of literature. Let's tackle them one-by-one, shall we?
First of all, this novel is all about family. Before we point you to our discussion of "Family" in our section on Themes, let us state the obvious: with the family name (García) in the title of the book and a family tree before the opening chapter, how could this not be a family drama? And trust us, this family is dramatic.
Secondly, this family has four daughters, all of whom pass through their adolescent years in the middle of the book. So we can definitely call this a coming-of-age story. But it's a little weird. Since the book moves backwards in time, the four girls are adults in the early chapters, and children by the end. Adolescence is still crammed in the middle, but we guess you could say the girls "come-of-age" in reverse.
Saying that How the García Girls Lost their Accents is an autobiography is a bit more controversial. But, hey, who's afraid of controversy? Not us! We're not even afraid of Virginia Woolf.
Lots of critics have pointed out that many of the elements of Yolanda's story bear a striking resemblance to the author's own life. In fact, the character's nickname, Yo, means "I" in Spanish, which we think is a pretty big hint that Yolanda is an alter ego for Alvarez. And Alvarez's family famously got mad and stopped speaking to her after the book was published. Hm... guess there must be some truth to this story.
Even so, Alvarez has been quick to point out that this is a work of fiction. So maybe we can't argue that it's a straight-up autobiography, but it most likely contains some autobiographical elements.
Finally, this novel is an example of Postmodernism. Sure, it's not the craziest, most experimental book out there, but it definitely contains some quirky elements, like Alvarez's decision to mix up the storytelling with first- and third-person narrators so that you feel like the entire family is talking to you all at once. Or to include more poetic/stream of consciousness passages, like the chapter "Joe," that tells the story of Yolanda's mental breakdown in really symbolic language. This ain't your granny's Family Drama.