Synopses & Reviews
This novel tells the story of two women--mother and daughter--and how they confronted the machismo in two Caribbean revolutions. Set in the politically chaotic Dominican Republic of the late nineteenth century, on the campuses of three American universities, and in the idealistic Communist Cuba of the 1960s, this story is based on the real lives of a volatile, opinionated, romantic, intrigue-loving family.
Salome Urena's fervent patriotic poems turned her--at seventeen--into the Dominican Republic's national icon. In stark contrast, her daughter, Camila, shy and self-effacing, bent to accommodate the demands of her father and brothers (a president, an ambassador, an international literary star)--trying to hide her preference for women, to stay out of the spotlight, and to offend no one. Whereas her mother dedicated her brief life to educating Dominican girls to serve their turbulent new nation, Camila spent her career anonymously explaining the Spanish pluperfect to upper-class American girls.
We meet Camila in 1960 when she is sixty-five years old and about to retire from Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York. This is Camila's last chance to choose a final destiny for herself. In the process of deciding, Camila uncovers first the reality of her mother's tragic personal life and, finally, where she must place her own kind of passion and commitment.
Latina poet and university professor Alvarez brings many common bonds to this novel based on "la musa de la patra," Salome Urena, and her daughter, Profesora Camila Henriquez-Urena. Not the least of these is an undaunted female stance from inside a powerful Caribbean family.
Based on the lives of two heroic Latin women, Alvarez's sweeping fourth novelspans more than 100 years in the tumultuous history of the Caribbean.
In her most ambitious work since In The Time of Butterflies
, Julia Alvarez tells the story of a woman whose poetry inspired one Caribbean revolution and of her daughter whose dedication to teaching strengthened another.
Camila Henriquez Urena is about to retire from her longtime job teaching Spanish at Vassar College. Only now as she sorts through family papers does she begin to know the woman behind the legend of her mother, the revered Salome Urena, who died when Camila was three.
In stark contrast to Salome, who became the Dominican Republic's national poet at the age of seventeen, Camila has spent most of her life trying not to offend anybody. Her mother dedicated her life to educating young women to give them voice in their turbulent new nation; Camila has spent her life quietly and anonymously teaching the Spanish pluperfect to upper-class American girls with no notion of revolution, no knowledge of Salome Urena.
Now, in 1960, Camila must choose a final destination for herself. Where will she spend the rest of her days? News of the revolution in Cuba mirrors her own internal upheaval. In the process of deciding her future, Camila uncovers the truth of her mother's tragic personal life and, finally, finds a place for her own passion and commitment.
Julia Alvarez has won a large and devoted audience by brilliantly illuminating the history of modern Caribbean America through the personal stories of its people. As a Latina, as a poet and novelist, and as a university professor, Julia Alvarez brings her own experience to this exquisite story.
Julia Alvarez is "a one-woman cultural collision." --Los Angeles Times Book Review
Julia Alvarez "skillfully weaves fact and fiction." --Newsweek
Julia Alvarez is "hot, hot, hot." --Miami Herald
About the Author
When she was ten years old, Julia Alvarez's family had to flee the Dominican Republic because her father had been involved in a coup against dictator Trujillo. Four months later, most of her father's co-conspirators were killed. These dangerous times and her experience of exile were formative for Alvarez as a writer: "What made me into a writer was coming to this country . . . all of a sudden losing a culture, a homeland, a language, a family . . . I wanted a portable homeland. And that's the imagination." Exile became the basis for two of Alvarez's best-selling novels: How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents (1991) and its sequel, Yo!(1997). Her father's revolutionary ties inspired In the Time of the Butterflies(1994). Those novels have won many honors, including the PEN Oakland Josephine Miles Award, ALA Notable Book of the Year, American Bookseller's "Top 10 Books to Discuss" and finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. They have been translated into nine languages. Something to Declare, Julia Alvarez's first nonfiction book, a collection of her best and most influential essays, was published in 1998.