Disclaimer: This is an example of a student written essay.
Click here for sample essays written by our professional writers.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of UKEssays.com.

Study of the book something to declare

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 4834 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

Reference this

The purpose of analyzing the book of essays Something to Declare by Julia Alvarez is to establish the differences between Dominican and American culture. All along the book, she defines the two cultures within the 24 essays in which she relates her life in all aspects with fully-described details.

Our criteria in selecting the topic of cultural contrast between the two countries, is in order to raise the differences and similarities of the cultures which have always had a good relationship in economic and business matters.

We focused our interest on this issue because of the cultural shock and the process of acculturation experienced but the author when she was only a ten year-old girl, and as a result, that event has transformed her life into a creative and multidimensional writer.

This interesting book is divided in two parts. The first part is regarding her customs; the family drama (when Julia and her family had to leave their native country), her arriving to the United States, her refusal to adopt another culture and language, her transitional identity, and how finally she became a bicultural woman and writer.

The second part describes the passion that Julia feels towards Literature, especially, the writing aspect. She openly explained the deep desire she has ever had of writing, as well as the routine she has developed through the years to do what she loves the most. Julia also tells about the struggle she had to overcome during the beginning of her career as a writer.

Get Help With Your Essay

If you need assistance with writing your essay, our professional essay writing service is here to help!

Essay Writing Service

The selection of the Julia Alvarez as the center of our research is due to her great literary work throughout her career. Even though she has spent most of her life living in the United States, she has succeeded internationally writing about her Dominican roots and Dominican culture, which is very remarkable. Her wonderful work wrote on papers is more than enough reason to select her autobiography as the subject of our analysis.

In the introductory part of this investigation, is the biography. It relates chronologically Julia’s life from a more abstract view; combining personal and literary aspects all at once. Following the bio are the literary activities, which focus the glance on the awards and the books she has published so far.

The third part contains the historical background of the book. It describes the time and places when the story was developed, as well as the events that occurred at the time. Furthermore, it includes the presidents of the two countries as the author relates her experiences through the years.

The characters and the summary are the next parts, which are an excerpt taken from the book to give an idea about the interesting content of the essays. On the other hand, the literary critics shows the point of view of important people, magazines and newspapers about Something to Declare.

Finally, we analyzed the essays from a very particular perspective. We took Julia’s own words to show the contrast between the two cultures she belongs to. The examples displayed along the analysis demonstrate that the author’s heart is divided in two nations: the Dominican Republic and the United States.


In 1997 Alvarez published I! All in reflections and criticism could itself Alvarez’s literary success.

In the Name of Salome (2000), this book has been widely acclaimed for her careful historical research.


“Alvarez´s new book embraces readers as if she were opening the door for unexpected guests.”

-The Orlando Sentinel.

“Spry, inviting writing…Alvarez has clearly made her second language her own.”

-Entertainment Weekly.

“A valuable collection of essays…introduces writing as a craft full of awareness. And this awareness gives Alvarez a voice that promises to continue to declare itself.”

-Christian Science Monitor.

“Evocative, touching, often amusing…Alvarez’s fluid style blends personal history with insight. Her book is a must-read for anyone who loves and struggles with writing, and it is a witness to the ability of the human soul to renew itself daily.” -The Tampa Tribune.

“In this collection, Alvarez artfully reveals how and why she writes.”

-The Hartford Courant.

JULIA ALVAREZ is the author of the critically acclaimed novels ¡Yo!, In the Time of the Butterflies (a National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist), and How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents. Ms. Alvarez is also the author of collections of poetry, The Other Side/El OtroLado and Homecoming (all available in Plume editions). She lives with her husband in Vermont.

“Julia Alvarez is a writer on a different kind of edge.”

_The Nation.

“Vibrant…Something to Declare at the same time reveals and masks what’s upsetting with an abundance of humor and a measure of self-denigration.” Bloomsbury Review.

“Alvarez wields her legendary storyteller’s power to hold an audience spellbound while enlarging its vision through the deft use of empathy.” The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

“To be read slowly and carefully, as a special gift from a writer whose skill and enthusiasm have enriched the country she now considers her home.” Anniston Star (Alabama).

“Poignant…ironic… The writing transcends itself and becomes a new consciousness, a new place on the map. The Virginian-Pilot.

“(Alvarez) paints with vibrant, earthy clarity… Open and lively.”

Publishers Weekly.

“A wonderful literary and biographical gift for both aspiring writers, teachers of literature, and fans of Julia Alvarez” _Bookwatch.

“Simply wonderful. The novel becomes more powerful with each passing chapter.”

-Los Angeles Times

In the Time of the Butterflies

“potent and luminous… confirms Julia Alvarez as a Latin American storyteller whose voice we need to hear.” _The Philadelphia Inquirer.

“An important book. Alvarez has given us a gift of rare generosity and courage.”

_The San Diego Union-Tribune.

“Wonderful… rich… skillfully weaves fact and fiction, building to a gut-wrenching climax.”


“Doubly blessed with a poet’s vision and a realist’s eye, Alvarez gives us lessons about the courage and vitality of the female spirit, the webs and tangles that bind families, piety and activism, loyalty and fear, faith and love.” _The Miami Herald


“About the writer and her lies, her truths, her passions the way she uses, needs, loves, and takes, all at the same time… She carries us along on waves of laughter and an undercurrent of pain.” _Elle

“A novel of amazing richness and magnanimity, a sophisticated work of art that is also warmly accessible to the ordinary reader.” San Francisco Chronicle.

From the internationally acclaimed author of the bestselling novels in the Time of the Butterflies, and. The twenty-four personal essays that make up Something to Declare are like snapshots rendered in prose, capturing the life and mind of an artist as she meditates on the dual themes of coming to America and becoming a writer.

Part One, Customs. Is a loving tribute to family and an examination of the specific effects of exile fleeing dictatorship in the Dominican Republic, the shock of arriving in New York City, training a Spanish tongue to speak English, and watching the Miss America pageant for clues to translate one’s looks into “made-in-the-U.S.A. beauty.” Part Two, Declarations, celebrates Alvarez’s enduring passion for words and the writing life. From “First Muse,” a valentine to Scheherazade, who proved the great power of storytelling, to “So Much Depends,” a reflection on the influence of fellow bicultural writers William Carlos Williams and Maxine Hong Kingston, to “Ten of My Writing Commandments,” an inspiring list for any aspiring writer, these essays are filled with humor and insight _a generous gift to readers and writer everywhere.

“A pleasure to read… Alvarez speaks directly to her readers in these essays offering insight into the inspiration and craft that informs her work… a thoughtful self-analysis and a delightful primer on becoming a writer.” _Denver Post.

“Julia Alvarez is a breathtaking writer.”

_St. Petersburg Times

From the internationally acclaimed author of the bestselling novels in the Time of the Butterflies, and. The twenty-four personal essays that make up Something to Declare are like snapshots rendered in prose, capturing the life and mind of an artist as she meditates on the dual themes of coming to America and becoming a writer.


From 1930 to 1961 in the Dominican Republic lived an intense situation at all levels, especially literary level, since most of the poets, storytellers, artists, had to go into exile in order not to have the opinion Trujillista. Others stayed but did not develop their creative, and if they did it was in favor of President Rafael Leonidas Trujillo, no strange the spiritual manifestation that there was no space, and so exist in many Latin American countries. Dominican literature is marked by the influence of European literature in particular of French literature, but has its own identity and a force that politicians love to men

Contemporary literature mostly originates in the Dominican diaspora in New York, the works focus on the difficulties of daily life in the Dominican Republic, among contemporary writers is Julia Alvarez. In the beginning of the eighteenth and nineteenth century American literature took most of it inspiration from Europe. At the beginning of the twentieth century, the American novelist extended to the social significance of his works of fiction to cover both the lives of wealthy people as those of marginalized groups.

Political events between 1961 and 1965 served to youth so freely express whatever the Trujillo tyranny that had prevented them. Poetry was one of the main resources used by these young people to act out their political and social concerns; as well as, to combat corruption that broke into nearly every corner of the Dominican society.

The Dominican Republic experienced a very difficult political situation between 1961 and 1978, during this period several historical events occurred that abruptly changed political and social thought and the course of literary and cultural activities in the country, among them are: The physical death of Trujillo, which in no way means the disappearance of the shadow of the tyrant, the rise of Juan Bosch to power in February 1963, and the unexpected military coup that ousted seven months later, the war in April 1965, which left the second disastrous U.S. military occupation in the Dominican Republic, the election of Joaquin Balaguer as president, who was intolerable to those who continued to fight for libertarian principles peaked by the makers of the revolution in April 1965.

Some of the events occurred in United States in the 1960s,

The popular literary genres, such as Oriental literature and mystery novels have had a great development in the United States, for its part, particularly in recent years is considered the Spanish literature in the United States as an expression of the growing cultural phenomenon the Hispanic population and the Spanish language in this country.

United State Economy and Politics (1960)

After World War II, the GNP increased from 200.000 million in 1940, 300.000 million in 1950 to more than 500.000 million in 1960. More and more Americans joined the middle class. There were many sources of growth. The automotriz industry, it became exclusively a creator of tanks and bombers, and the new industry of aviation and electronics grew. In addition to this expansion, the workforce also changed. Unions won contracts for employees working long quickly focused its price.

Six of the eleven presidential elections since World War II have resulted in a change of political party in the White House. Three times, the Democrats were replaced for Republicans (1952, 1968 and 1980) and three others, the Democrats moved to the Republicans (1960, 1976 and 1992). During each of these campaigns, the winning candidate had promised a foreign policy completely different from what was the sitting president of another party. However, once invested with his office, followed the lines of his predecessor’s relations with other countries. Bipartisanship in foreign policy is deeply rooted in American political culture.

The created climate change; and his endorsement of advancing free trade in the Americas.


Julia Alvarez she is a fighter woman, who defies the traditional customs in which she was brought up, all to achieve her goal of becoming a famous writer. Alvarez is a wonderful woman, very intellectual, with a vision of progress. She wisely, faces obstacles, and does not see it as such, but, as life experiences, which they did not prevent her achieving her dream of becoming an artist of Literature.

Daddy: Julia’s father, though a little introverted, is a man who is proud of his family. This character is attached to what are the traditional customs of the time, in which only men were enjoyed certain privileges. He was a man who liked economize, and sometimes did not say things directly, he liked speaking in parables.

Mommy:Alvarez’s mother is a woman who the contrary of her father tries to adopt and introduce their daughters to what is American culture, which is very different from the Dominican one, the latter being where are their true origins. An example of this is when being at home even longer, Julia speaking mixing the two languages (English and Spanish), what we commonly call Spanglish, her mother repeated the idea, but only in English, as a clever way to correct her.

Julia´s grandfatherThe grandfather was a fine and elegant man, very good manners, whom Julia received wise counsel. He was a United Nations diplomat. Due to his trips to countries like Spain and others, assimilated morality, which were taught to her grandchildren. He had a good sense of humor, and like Julia, is passionate with music and poetry, but put aside her passion for art, giving priority to what was taking care of his family, as cited: “Very familial, Said everyone of my grandfather, a family man.”

Bill: Julia Alvarez’s husband, a doctor and farmer from Nebraska.

Aunt Tití: She was a simple woman; showing little regard for their physical attributes, but loving reading.

Sister Maria Generosa: English teacher. This intelligent woman had a particular form to teach, which she attracted attention of her students.

Misiá: was a Haitian maid of Alvarez´s home, whom liked much the voodoo sections.

Don José de Jesús: Julia’s uncle. a man who was rowdy with women, he had sired twenty-five children, was widowed once, kept a couple of mistresses who raised the figure to thirty-plus children.

Utcho: a cousin of de writer, whom she called uncle, because he was so much older than he was.

Dilita: who was a hybrid. She looked just like the other Dominican girls, with a teased hairdo, wore makeup, outfits and was a rebel girl.

Manuel Gustavo (Mangu): Julia Álvarez firstboyfriend. He was a honey-young man with wonderful dimples and pot belly.

Father Doby: a church lawyer and a member of La Crosse diocese.

Father James: member of the shrine.

Donna: Mary Ann’s youngest daughter


a) “Grandfather’s Blessing”:

Grandfather’s Blessing is the first story that begins this interesting book of essays, in which Julia Alvarez talks about her family life and the messages she received at that time in relation to her woman’s condition. Although the author speaks of her experiences about her family and entertaining conversations with her grandfather, the author makes a small approach to the situation that existed in the country at that time, the “dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo.” The oppression was so great that people were persuaded and forced to leave their belongings, if so desired the chief, as she says: “One evening the SIM, the military intelligence service, meat for my grandfather and put him in jail for two days. He was not torture, but “persuaded” to sell a part of historical land price for the minimum to the daughter of the dictator.”

Here J. Alvarez mentioned her aunt Titi, which was simple, showing little regard for her their physical attributes, but loving reading. She also mentions her widowed aunt, who has three very young children, although a bit mischievous, own of their age, each had an ideal about what they wanted to be in the future.

Grandfather’s Blessing is just the story that the author makes does about the great support she has always received with respect to their desire to be a writer by her grandfather, even where his career was still just a dream.

b) “Our Papers”

This essay takes place in the old house in Boca Chica, where stayed the whole family on vacation, but then, in 1960, and being at home in the capital, Alvarez say of the ability that took his father to take as a pretext studying heart surgery, in order to get a visa for his family (his wife and four daughters), and so escape the oppressive government of that time; as well as, the intelligence of her godmother to achieve persuading the chief, all to get their papers to travel outside the country.

In addition, the author talks about the fear she felt to come to America and face a new culture, where the main change was the need to speak a language they did not dominated, English. Neither had she they liked to get away from her aunts and cousins.

She tells that since being established in New York, she missed her life in her country of origin. J. Alvarez reflected whether in fact these papers meant freedom in a foreign country, or indeed, the privation of what they truly enjoyed, which made them happy in the Dominican Republic, as quoted: “I wonder if those papers free us from September had everything we loved.”

c) “My English”

J. Alvarez mentions Carol Morgan School as the first step to master English language, refers to the motivation that always received by her mother, who was the driving force for her and her sisters learn this important language, which the author talks how difficult it was for her master.

She was so used to Spanish, so they went through the ridicule of their classmates. She makes mention of his uncle Gus, the youngest of the brothers of her mother, who was very intellectual.

This essay refers to the shock that she was to arrive in New York, and how difficult it was, since she spoke Spanish and English, and she saw it as a very difficult language. She says she began to feel love for English, thanks to Sister Maria Generosa. This teacher attracted the interest of whiter in that language with her entertaining way to teach, which was puting to writing in a relaxing form, putting her your imagination, writing the topic of their preference, and not insisting on what she was boring: Grammar Rules, The teacher used to explain that students end with a great understanding of the language”

d) “My Second Opera”

Alvarez in this essay, refers to her life already living in New York, and taking even ten years. Here the reader realizes the little motivation she felt at the beginning to attend the opera, which was an event that bored her enough, contrary to the voodoo ceremonies she so enjoyed of her Caribbean country, which she met by her maid Haitian Misiá.

Alvarez agreed with her grandmother to go instead of her to accompany her grandfather to go to see Aida, the show, because she did not like to participate in these events, which were part of the social life of a diplomat like her grandfather.

In this story, Julia also explains how she missed her culture in the Dominican Republic, and how difficult it was to assimilate her new life in America, even sharing these classic events.

Then, with Aida, she began to feel attracted to the opera, : “I Became an opera fan and also a wily intrigued,”,” the latter referring to how smart she had become, as learned to use this activity to get everything she wanted, with respect to her grandmother.

Here, the author lets see again how she was attached to their Dominican roots, and still felt little adaptation in their new country.

e) “I Want to Be Miss America”

This story takes place in Queens, New York. J. Alvarez refers the interest of her and her sisters to enter in all what concerns with the culture of their new country of adoption and Miss America was a contest that called them enough attention since so they could see in each one of the contestants on American look, which they wanted to look, but really seeing the competition, they observed that although there were girls with looks simple, something that made them begin to feel comfortable and not as strangers were also others in which her beauty was so perfect that made her think that this beauty was not as natural, but rather girls were made.

She did not think women were only created to be good mothers and wives but also capable of being successful professional, useful to society, something that could be said it was opposed to their native culture.

But despite this enthusiasm, this successful writer always knew she could not be Miss America, not only for their physical appearance, which was very different from those girls, but also because she had to feel it.

On the other hand, while they wanted to be as native, her classmates wanted to look like them, so this made them feel accepted in that country. Although she continues feeling foreign, she consider the United States as her homeland.

f) “I Want To Be Miss America”

The essays deals mainly with the change of identity in which they were involved, both the writer and his sisters, trying to be different, because they were in a country different from them, which ought to fit.* “We Would Have to translate our looks Into Ingles, iron and tweeze them out; straighten Them, Them into mold Made-in-the-USA beauty” (This referring to their hair.)

Also refers to the beauty, showing in the contests, that most of the time is just edible. “Their voices rang with false cheer. You could hear, not far off, years of high-school cheerleading, pom-poms, bleachers full of moon-eyed boys, and moms on phones, signing them up for all manner of lessons and making appointments dentist”.

It talks about the help of his parents, which had provided the needed, making mention of a family, although they are in foreign land, stuck together, which helped them cope with less trauma.

g) El Doctor

The main theme of this essay is the need to save, no matter even if they had enough to spend. “But my rich father lived in the dark. Saving string, going the long way.” Her dad turned off the lights all the time, though she was reading and it was dark.

She mentioned the lifestyle of her father and refers to a possible infidelity, besides the good behavior of the mother; family union is noticed even in the difficulties that might exist.

h) La Gringuita

On Losing a Native Language

Here, the author refers to the cultural changes that were involved, especially. Also, she recounts the difficulties of not accepting a new culture, what would prevent the adaptation to the new home.

It refers to the first loving relationship of the author, who was in the land of origin, on a visit they made. In addition, it talks about her husband, who is American, born in a Nebraska farm and is also a doctor, like her father.

It refers to the first loving relationship of the author, who was in the land of origin, on a visit they made. In addition, it talks about her husband, who is American, born in a Nebraska farm and is also a doctor, like her father.

i) Picky Eater

This essay talks about the eating habits of the writer and her husband, calling herself “a picky eater”. It refers to the needs of maintaining a healthy diet to keep a good fit and also save time for using it on more important things, specifically to writing. Also, it refers to the difficulties that existed in her native country to eat food prepared in the streets, which could make them sick; due to low hygiene they were prepared.

The author speaks of some bad experience at mother’s home, related to one food that she did not like and she was forced to eat: “engrudo”.

This essay reveals the change in the lifestyle of both countries, mainly related to food, due to the difference in culture. Even as partners they had different food habits, they learned to understand each other, and they shared the table as well as the food preparation, always helping each other. That activity gave them a complete well being at home.

j) Briefly, a Gardener

The author shows the importance of helping each other between her and her husband tasks, regardless of whether they are different. “I’ve tried to share his passion with him, just as he has tried to share mine. Many a weekend morning, I’ve had before a new manuscript sat with strict instructions to be “critical,”. This produces a positive effect on couples, resulting to a lasting marriage and an organized family.

k) Imagining Motherhood

The author, like all women, displayed the anxiety of not having children, almost being a 40 year-old woman. She justified herself in the profession as a writer, so she had no time to be a mother. Also, it refers to the difficulty to find a good father to her baby.

She felt depressed when she saw someone in her family with children, or when someone made reference to the subject. ‘A woman who does not care have a child is considered foolish at best. At worst, as I heard one lecturer proclaim,” she is committing genetic suicide.” The essay refers to the idea of adoption, but then she withdraws it, remaining childless.

l) A Genetic of justice

Julia Alvarez narrates the suffering of her family when she was 10 years. She says that her family lived under a big pressure due to the dictatorship of Rafael Leonidas Trujillo Molina. She also tells about her mother’s life and the way that she kept her children far away from the eye of the dictator because of his appetite for pretty and young girls. .” When her mother married her father she knew all regarding the dictatorship, many lost their lives in unsuccessful attempts to return the country to democracy in that time.

Find Out How UKEssays.com Can Help You!

Our academic experts are ready and waiting to assist with any writing project you may have. From simple essay plans, through to full dissertations, you can guarantee we have a service perfectly matched to your needs.

View our services

Her father was very lucky when he was young; he escaped to Canada where he live for a while, running away to save his life. A few months later, he came back to the country and after a time, her mother wondered why he had returned, if they knew that things were very bad in this country, but, the pressure of his friends in the north led him to come back to the land where Trujillo claimed to be the release of the regime.

Her parents behaved as best they could because they had four daughters and could not take any risk with them. As a result, since he was a young doctor, when he saw that things got tough, he asked permission to go to make a specialty to another country. .

Yet she thanked her parents for having installed in her through their suffering, a desire for freedom and justice.

m) Family Matters

She writes that since she became a public writer, her family tried to figure out where she got that talent, they determined that she probably acquired the genes from her father and uncles. One of her uncles was a poet, but she says her genes as a writer, in fact, come directly from her father. But when they migrated to the United States, her father had to get started again to practice medicine, her father abandoned the ambition of wanting to write books because he still


Cite This Work

To export a reference to this article please select a referencing stye below:

Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.

Related Services

View all

DMCA / Removal Request

If you are the original writer of this essay and no longer wish to have your work published on UKEssays.com then please: