Study Guide

How the García Girls Lost Their Accents Sexuality and Sexual Identity

By Julia Alvarez

Sexuality and Sexual Identity

In the dark, Fifi gave off a fresh, wholesome smell of clean flesh. It gave solace to the third daughter, who was always so tentative and terrified and had such troubles with men. Her sister's breathing in the dark room was like having a powerful, tamed animal at the foot of her bed ready to protect her. (1.2.15)

It's no accident that Yoyo compares Fifi to a powerful animal. Just like an animal, Fifi has a very natural relationship to her own body and sexuality. She doesn't overthink things. And that's what makes her so sexy.

"Has he deflowered you? That's what I want to know. Have you gone behind the palm trees? Are you dragging my good name through the dirt, that is what I would like to know!" (1.2.21)

Papi's euphemism about "going behind the palm trees" is one of the best ways to talk about having sex that we've ever heard. But on a more serious note, why is he so mad at the thought that his daughter might be having sex?

Sofía planted a large hand on his shoulder, and anyone could see how it must be between them in the darkness of their love-making. (1.2.29)

The relationship between Sofía and her husband Otto seems so happy. So natural. So unlike any of her sisters' relationships with men.

His face had darkened with shame at having his pleasure aroused in public by one of his daughters. (1.2.65)

It's all fun and games until it becomes really obvious that Papi is enjoying his daughters' kisses a little too much. But this moment isn't just about the kiss—it also reveals the weirdly sexual aspect to all of Papi's interactions with his daughters. Like the way he gives them money, doesn't want their husbands around, and refers to them with their mother as his "five girls."

The lover knew Yolanda would not have wanted him to know about this indelicacy of her body. She did not even like to pluck her eyebrows in his presence. An immediate bathrobe after her bath. Lights out when they made love. Other times, she carried on about the Great Mother and the holiness of the body and sexual energy being eternal delight. Sometimes, he complained he felt caught between the woman's libber and the Catholic señorita. (1.3.49)

Yoyo can be really insecure about her own sexuality. Sounds like she's caught in between two extremes—good girl and sex goddess—and neither one is really working for her.

Why I didn't just sleep with someone as persistent as Rudy Elmenhurst is a mystery I'm exploring here by picking it apart the way we learned to do to each other's poems and stories in the English class where I met Rudolf Brodermann Elmenhurst, the third. (1.5.3)

Yoyo is constantly analyzing her past sexual relationships, the way she does to stories and poems. And it's not because she just wants to relive the (sometimes awkward) experiences. She wants to learn something from them so she can move on.

I put the bottle between my legs and pulled so hard that not only did I jerk the crumbled cork out but I sprayed myself with expensive Bordeaux. [...] I held the bottle up to my mouth and drew a long messy swallow, as if I were some decadent wild woman who had just dismissed an unsatisfactory lover. (1.5.41)

Remember the lesson Yoyo learned earlier about pornographic double meanings in literature? Good. Now keep in mind that Yoyo is holding a suggestively-shaped object between her legs, jerking the cork out, and spraying herself with wine. Goodbye Rudy Elmenhurst. Hello sexual independence!

"Virgin sex? Who're you talking about?" his sister Lucinda challenges with a hand on her hip. "Yeah," we concur, hands on our hips, facing him, a line-up of feminists. (2.1.104)

For the teenage García sisters (and one of their Dominican cousins, for once!) sex is actually a political statement. After all, when your entire society is trying to pretend like you're as pure and innocent as a doll, admitting that you like sex is like saying, "Hey! I'm just like men!"

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