Study Guide

How the García Girls Lost Their Accents Foreignness and 'The Other'

By Julia Alvarez

Foreignness and 'The Other'

How The García Girls Lost Their Accents explores what it's like for the García girls, who spend their childhoods in the Dominican Republic, to grow up as foreigners in the United States. Being an immigrant isn't easy—the children are made to feel like outsiders not only by the mean schoolyard bullies who call them "spics," but also by the language barrier that means they're always a beat or two behind their classmates when it comes to getting a joke.

Eventually, though, Papi is proud to be able to say that he "smooth(ed) the accent out of their English in expensive schools" (1.2.42). They finally fit in; so why is Yolanda so unhappy as an adult? She seems to feel like she is trapped between two cultures.

Questions About Foreignness and 'The Other'

  1. Which parts of Yolanda feel more American, and which parts feel more Dominican? Why doesn't she feel like she completely fits in in either culture?
  2. What characters make the García sisters feel like foreigners in the United States? Are all of them trying to be mean?
  3. Who are the foreigners in the Dominican Republic? What are some signs of their "otherness"? How are they treated by Dominicans?

Chew on This

In the first chapter, "Antojos," Yolanda keeps insisting that she's never been at home in the United States, and that the Dominican Republic is her real home. But there's plenty of evidence to suggest that she's wrong about this—she doesn't really fit in in the D.R. either.

The novel makes the argument that the discrimination experienced by immigrants is a universal experience—it happens everywhere, and it has always happened.

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