Synopses & Reviews
The works of award-winning poet and novelist Julia Alvarez are rich with the language and influences of two cultures: the Dominican Republic of her childhood and the America of her youth and adulthood. They have shaped her writing just as they have shaped her life.
Since her first celebrated novel, How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents, she has been articulating the passions and opinions of sisters and aunts, mothers and daughters, heroines and martyrs. In The Woman I Kept to Myself, seventy-five poems that weave together the narrative of a woman's inner life, it is Julia Alvarez's own clear voice that sings out in every line. These are not poems of a woman discovering herself--Alvarez might say that's what her twenties were for--but of a woman returning to herself. Now, in the middle of her life, she looks back as a way of understanding and celebrating the woman she has become. And she hides nothing: from her early marriages to her late-in-life love, from the politics that informed her to the prejudice that haunts her still. Her fears, her accomplishments, and the ready humor that permeates even her darkest thoughts are all proffered to the reader.
Perhaps the truest words to describe this remarkable collection are the two that give the last section its title: keeping watch. We are pulled into the intimate circle of a woman who keeps us company by sharing the stories and insights that we often keep to ourselves.
"Author of the popular novels How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents and In the Time of the Butterflies, Alvarez continues to explore themes of cultural difference and personal experience in her new collection of poems. The book, which marks her fourth collection of poetry, comprises 75 poems of 30 lines each; the formal constraint is an organizing principle for these sometimes meandering autobiographical poems. A good many poems explore her development and status as a writer, specifically as a Latina: 'Even I, childless one, intend to write/ New Yorker fiction in the Cheever style / but all my stories tell where I came from.' The midsection of the book, 'The Woman I Kept to Myself,' roams from nostalgic reflections on childhood birthday presents to meditations on eating disorders to speedily resolved family conflicts to personal, and worldwide, losses: 'Why did it take so long? Mom and Dad's deaths/ a friend's cancer, a cousin's accident/ the Twin Towers, the war on innocents....' Seeing the first signs of spring sets the world to rights again: 'Then suddenly, a daffodil, a patch/ of crocuses... and back into the intact Towers flew/ stick figures, like a film in reverse.' Most poems here arrive at similar recastings of hard truths; often, however, one feels that both sides of the equation are too easily won, drawing close to clichÃÂ© and facile reconciliation: 'I've woken to the world just as it is,' she writes, 'and that's enough in fact, more than enough.' (Apr.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Charming and intense at the same time, Alvarez writes candidly of epic concerns and everyday realities in this unfailingly lucid collection of autobiographical poems." --Booklist
"Brave and vivid . . . Seventy-five poems express wonder, anger, grief and joy in clear, accessible narratives." --The Miami Herald
"The poems are, like precious moments in life, nuggets to be savored and reflected upon." --The Dallas Morning News
Best-selling novelist and award-winning poet Alvarez shares 75 new poems that trace her life and her work from her childhood in the Dominican Republic to her adulthood as a celebrated Latina writer.
The works of this award-winning poet and novelist are rich with the language and influences of two cultures: those of the Dominican Republic of her childhood and the America of her youth and adulthood. They have shaped her writing just as they have shaped her life. In these seventy-five autobiographical poems, Alvarez's clear voice sings out in every line. Here, in the middle of her life, she looks back as a way of understanding and celebrating the woman she has become.
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.