How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents



Sofia, "Fifi", is the youngest of the four girls, and is the maverick out of her sisters.[17] She gains the attention of the reader multiple times throughout the book, as her stories are different in nature from those of the other García girls. In the book Alvarez quotes "Sofia was the one without the degrees. She had always gone her own way".[18] Out of her sisters, she was the plain one but had consistent boyfriends and was always being asked advice about men from the other three girls.[18] In the first chapter, "The Kiss", readers are told the story of her rebellious marriage to a "jolly and good natured" German man in Colombia during a rebellious vacation with her current boyfriend.[17] After her marriage to him, her relationship with her father deteriorates significantly until her son is born. The family reunites to celebrate her father's birthday and son’s christening,[19] although Sofia still feels the same antagonism she felt towards him beforehand.[17]


Sandi is the second daughter in the novel, the pretty one who could "pass as an American, with soft blue eyes and fair skin".[20] We see the loving and caring part of her personality emerge in "Floor Show" where at a very young age she decides that if her family got into a really bad financial situation, she would attempt to get adopted by a rich family, get an allowance "like other American girls got"[21] which she would then pass onto her family. The spot-light falls on her again when she goes away to a graduate program and her parents receive a letter from the dean saying Sandra has been hospitalized after an extreme diet, revealing that she is anorexic.[22]


Yolanda is the third oldest and most imaginative of the four girls.[23] She plays the most important role in the novel as Alvarez's alter ego.[24] She is a schoolteacher, a poet and a writer. Her nicknames, which reflect and represent the different aspects of her personality, consist of "Joe", "Yosita", "Yoyo" and simply "Yo", which is also the title of the sequel to How the García Girls Lost Their Accents. Each of these nicknames are the product of one of Yolanda's multiple personalities. There is important significance in her character as "Yo", Spanish first person pronoun, the "I" of the narrator. The nickname "Yoyo" is reminiscent of the toy that goes up and down, back and forth, similar to Yolanda’s bouncing from culture to culture, from one extreme to the other.[25] The last, "Joe" represents the American version of Yolanda. Her ultimate return to the Island "represents her desire to displace herself from the North American Joe to the Yolanda of her family and youth."[26] These nicknames "act to properly define and name the many diverse facets of her complex personality".[27] Her character is that whose voice and words are most frequently heard throughout the novel; she is the most developed character and her identity is the most explored of the four girls.[28]


Carla is the eldest of the four daughters. As is common for the oldest sibling, she is somewhat seen as the mediator between the four sisters in the novel. "As the therapist in the family Carla likes to be the one who understands everything"[29] and "has a tendency to lace all her compliments with calls to self-improvement".[30] However to her sisters, this creates a somewhat dominating character at times reminiscent of their mother.[30] Her criticism goes farther when she writes an autobiographical paper calling her mother mildly anal-retentive.[31] In Carla’s first and perhaps most prominent story in the novel, "Trespass", as she is walking home from school in New York, a man exposes himself to her and attempts to lure her into his car. Alvarez uses Carla's character to display the language difficulties faced with only having "classroom English",[13] and how communication barriers affect immigrants.

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