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Study on imagining motherhood

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 4724 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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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.

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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 got fear due to the treatment from Trujillo to the writers of that time. He treated them as enemies.

On the other hand, J. Alvarez’s family was her only world, when she began to go to school; she already had received her first lessons in the house as her relatives taught her to trust only in the family. They lived in a dictatorship with a spy network that even the Catholic Church and its hierarchy offered weekly homilies in honor of the dictator, praising his regime. In the Trujillo regime people were linked to his family and vice versa.

In contrast, her family was by its own in the United Stated, they only had themselves to count; they had no protection from anyone.

At that time, if she and her sisters had been sons and not daughters it would have been easier for her parents to allow the independence they needed to survive in their own country. Everyone in her family fought but as writers. At that time the woman’s place was guardian of the home and family head.

n) First muse

This was the time she says she lived in another country, another language under a cruel dictatorship, what she remembers is the cruel dictator, the voices of nervous parents who lived in private. At that time, the shark was mortal, she thought surely she would die of boredom, because her parents had decided her should learn English and get a good education in America, what she was learning had nothing to do with the world lush and dangerous about her. She lived in a dictatorship, wist spies, disappearances, torture and death.

Her education was colonialism imposed from outside but not from within her own family, the author was one of the people who read books hidden from others so any one observed when she was reading because that could cause problems for her family, so it was.

Sometimes she felt ashamed for not being able to speak English very well; it is proposed that a day she would be expressed in a way that would make people who had tormented her feel bad. After that, instead of bothering these people with their her success, she began to want to save them, to offer her help. She changed the looks of hatred to transform the face of the sultan in the beautiful face of the prince of rest on the cover of her book of fairy tales. Scheherazade was not approved as her childhood hero.

The gold model that would give her parents and aunts and teachers was the fairytale princess as always: Cinderella mixed with a lot of Sleeping Beauty, was told that was the lifestyle of every happy woman.

o) Of Maids and Other Muses.

She, by starting writing so young, made many mistakes. And one of her biggest mistakes was that she should have written important things to impress her readers and not writing about unimportant things, for example: her immigration status and English as her second language, she did not make much progress in achieving literature. Sometimes she had other muses in front of her and did not put much attention; they did not seem very important, or American enough. She had a lot of help from her aunts even to learn English, the aunt Tití was the most important one to her because she was the person who was always willing to help her.

In this new culture, she and her sisters found new ways of being, new ways of seeing life, and with the language, she found new ways of speaking; from that experience is where she started to create from scratches until becoming a writer. But what most interested her was to master a new language at the age of ten.

p) So much depends

In this essay she talks about the writer Williams Carlos Williams; she used him as an example in many things. He was as though she belonged to North America, because he was Puerto Rican and he was mocked and embarrassed as she was by ethnic groups. Once, came to believe, that she felt she had no culture or place in this world, so she began to have a secret life which undoubtedly contributed for her to become a great writer.

that country where her family remained for a long time, helped her a lot because there was a concentration of Dominicans and Latinos who kept alive their values, customs and traditions of the language that became increasingly more a hidden part of her.

The 80’s were a decade of changes in literature, some writers such as Alma Gomez, Marina Ramos, etc., wrote Latin histories which were a collection of stories titled “Testimonio”. It was a literature that bore witness to their lives by establishing recognition of what Latins represented: people in exile, immigrants that created two worlds within her, and they were like a great bridge for her writing.

q) Have typewriter, will travel.

In this essay the author reviews the difficulties that writers face (In this case indicating her own vicissitudes). She makes the comparison of her classmates, those that in their majority achieved the success in their different careers, except writers, which do not have a wide field of movement, they grow to become school professors, newspaper publishers or to be their own employees, and the minority get to become famous writers, which as well do not guarantee an assured a prominent future.

She speaks of the patience with which writers are due to have, the times that she had to change direction or address due to the necessity of a job.

She often speaks about the deficiency and needs she had to deal with. The times that she had to stay in her friends’ houses as a guest, until she could find a place where to live, or how her mother urged to her, so that she made something different that generates a better form of life.

She also reports when her first work, after being rejected several times, profit to be published and three years later, her second work, which makes her gain notoriety without losing the humility that characterizes her, and her febrile desire to write. That behind all these vicissitudes and personal struggle to break through, was her immigration status and many that sees her now and says how lucky she was, they even imagine what she went through.

r) A Vermont Writer from the Dominican Republic

In this essay the author defines the reasons that make her considered a Vermonter: Most of her life in the United States has lived it in Vermont, where firstly she was considered like a citizen of another state, but after her success, she was accepted as a writer of Vermont.

She attended Middlebury College, working at the University of Vermont as a visiting teacher, and years later returned as a teacher at her Alma Mater. Was in this state where she met her husband, where she got married and all of her works were written there.

She emphasizes that what inspired her the most to write in Vermont was not the green of its mountains and the beauty of its landscapes, but simply that she could establish there, and settle down. The writer, in her description, lets know the similarity of Vermont with her native land wherein comparing the greenness of its mountains, of course that beside her marriage and her stable job, there also was the hospitality this place offers that is in keeping with her lifestyle and profession innate.

s) Doña Aida with your permission

In this essay the writer explains clearly that she does not consider herself as an American or as a Dominican (woman or writer) completely but as a mixture of both cultures, as she says a mixed breed; and it is about this duality that she writes.

She makes mention of discrimination on both sides; Americans who see her as a Latin. Writer with ethnic sociological interest in her work, and Dominicans, who did not consider her sufficiently Dominican, but this in turn confirmed her as a writer because as a Caribbean woman was too difficult for her to stand out or to take reputation unless the shadow of her parents, brothers or husband.

She defines that is not her decision to be a Dominican-American, but is in his Caribbean.

Roots, as the island itself is composed of a mixture of those who come and go, native, invaders and those who were brought by force.

t) Chasing the butterflies

In this essay the writer tells about her journeys after the details of what life was like, the vicissitudes, repression, torture, and murder of the Mirabal sisters. Everything begins with a simple invitation to write a paragraph about a Dominican heroine of her election, which leads her to seek, investigate, and explore all respect and inherent to them, getting to know many of her relatives, and related, among them were Nory the daughter of Patria, Minou the daughter of Minerva, Dedé the fourth sister and survivor of the dictatorship, and Mrs. Lesbia aunt of the girls, among others. It is that way the author makes a retrospective about the life of these girls and sets in motion the spark that turns the wheel in this way to bring back to life, the butterflies in the only and best way that the writer knows.

u) In the Name of the Novel

In this essay, Julia relates the process of investigating the data to write a novel she was interested to write about. The novel was supposed to be based upon a woman named Mary Ann Van Hoof, who assured to have had visitations from the Blessed Mother (as Mary used to call the Virgin) to advise her of the sins and disobedience the majority of the human beings live in.

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To find out all about Mary Ann and her visions, Julia went to Necedah, a small town in central Wisconsin. She wanted to find the records with the testimonies of her apparitions and the investigation of the church officials to use them as a subject to write the novel. Mary Ann had her followers, people who believed in the Virgin visitations, but she had her detractors as well. The church committee and La Crosse diocese had conducted investigations of Mary Ann and the shrine but kept the findings away from the audience.

Julia had come to be there on august 15, the feast day of the Assumption, and it is a special anniversary day at the shrine of the Queen of the Holy Rosary, Mediatrix of Peace. She went to the shrine to meet the followers of Mary Ann, as well as she went to the church to meet the Father Doby to listen both side of the story; including Mary Ann’s daughter Donna in order for her to find the truth around Mary Ann apparitions.

During the meetings, Julia’s interest turned from Mary Ann and her visions into the men and women of Necedah. So at the end, she found the subject she expected to find to write the novel.

v) Ten of My Writing Commandments

In this essay, Julia shows the Top Ten Commandments she applies in her writings. Some of them state the principles that an artist, especially a writer, should take into consideration in order to create a piece of art in which the ideas and emotions of the subject are successfully expressed. Others talk about the inner strength and courage that everybody has to put in their work in order to pursue their dreams and accomplish their goals. Alvarez takes these commandments from well known writers like: Toni Morrison, Samuel Johnson, Rainer Mariab Rilke, among others. Also she includes a phrase by her own mother.

w) Grounds for Fiction

Grounds for fiction is an essay in which Julia Alvarez tells the resources that she uses to write fiction. She confesses she keeps a yellow folder with pockets called curiosidades. This folder contains headlines, inventory lists, bits of gossip, the beginning of a poem or a short story, or the seed of plot.

She explains that sometimes when she is in the midlle of a project and needs a break; she goes through her yellow folder to find a spark that could inspire her to continue writing. For instance, she gives some examples of a few poems, chapters, and characters where she and some other authors took the idea from to create their pieces of work.

As a result, Julia ends this essay saying that the grounds for fiction are in everywhere; that is life itself the best inspiration to write fiction.

x) Writing Matters

In the last essay, Julia ends the book talking about her writing process. She describes what is for her a writing day. She starts very early in the mornings with a reading of poetry of authors like Jane Kenyon, George Herbert, Rita Dove, Robert Frost, Emily Dickinson…, accompanied by a cup of Dominican coffee. Julia says that this reading time is for her an inspirational moment to tune her own voice on her writings. In addition, she explains that she prefers writing her drafts by hand rather than using a computer because she feels that activity more intimate; that is ‘just for her’. But, later on, after revising, she types the hard draft on the computer.

Also, Alvarez talks about her breaks; she refers to her breaks as ‘breathers’ in which she does other activities like making or receiving phone calls from her family and friends, as well as going iron a shirt or cleaning out a drawn, among other activities.

One of the activities she considers as one of the most helpful tools to her writing day is running. Running helps her to come up with some good ideas to her writings. So, at the end of the writing day, she goes out to run down the town and turns back with a couple of ideas to improve her work.

Finally, and besides talking about her writing process, Julia makes reference to the importance of writing. She explains why it is so important for her, how she feels at writing, and what it means to her.

3.1 ISSUE:


The concept of culture, as we all know, refers to everything that represents a country; therefore, if we talk about the culture of two nations such as the Dominican Republic and the United States, we can say that there are great differences, especially in the language; for example: Dominican food is very different from the American food.

Facing a new culture can cause a identity shock, as we saw in the “I want to Be Miss America” essay, and adopting the American look, almost became an obsession for J. Alvarez and her sisters; in her book “Something to Declare”; she says: “We complained about how short we were, about how our hair frizzed, how our figures, didn’t curve those of the bathing beauties we’d seen on TV”, but eventually she realizes that the adoption to another culture does not relies on wanting to look as if sher belongs to that nation, but, on feeling it her own country.

On the other hand, we cannot leave to mention the language, which it is very important, because, without this tool, it would be very difficult for a Latin person who wants to live in America, because as we saw, the inability to speak English caused a tremendous impact or cultural shock to the famous writer Julia Alvarez, as in the “Our Papers” essay, when in the same book, she asks: “Why have a whole new language for school and for books with a teacher who could speak it teaching you double the amount of words you really needed?and she tells” she tells “Unfortunately, my English became all mixed up with our Spanish”.

This was very difficult for Alvarez, because due to that, she was object of ridicule and humiliated by her classmates. But not only there are difficulties in trying to assimilate a foreign culture that is not ours, but rather, it can have great benefits, as it was for the famous author. Since then of overcoming those vicissitudes, learning the American Language, opened the doors to a bright future, allowing her to be what she is today, an excellent and admired Dominican-American Writer.

Many times we feel the desire to immigrate to other lands, hoping to achieve a better life, things that someone manage, through its sacrifice and endure hardship, which in her homeland, perhaps never come to do. But sometimes someone has to leave their homeland for reasons against their will. One big examples, was the case of the current Dominican famous writer Julia Alvarez and her family, who had to leave the country because of the risk that they ran during the Rafael Leonidas Trujillo dictatorship.

The author tells in her book “Something to Declare” all the difficulties she went through, starting with the adaptation to her new home, the need to come to term a new language. “When we immigrated to the United States in the early sixties, the climate was no favorable for retaining our Spanish”, she pointed.

After several years of struggle and a great effort to keep attached to what was her greatest illusion – the writing – she managed to publish her work, which allowed her to be recognized and accepted as a writer, achieving the success and International recognition that she has today.

In this book the writer refers to the great difference between the two cultures, noting the feeding style of. As for dinner -now that Papi was working so hard and going home late at night, we couldn’t have this meal together, either”, she also speaks of the warmth of her homeland and the coldness she lived in North America.

The author reveals her homesickness for the unity of the family of her native land, and customs that kept the family union. “Once we came to this country, the tradition of family meals stopped altogether. We were suddenly too busy to eat together as a family.” she narrates. She also speaks about being childless, what is unusual in any culture for a woman, but in her native land it is almost a suicide remaining childless.

The early 60’s meant an awakening in all aspects of life. This decade opened the roads to the various cultural events such as music, theater, literature and more. J. Alvarez describes some aspects of Dominican culture versus American one; such as, the influence the American culture had on the Spanish language, for example, when says: “I’m a mixed breed, as are many of us U.S.A. Latino/a writers. With our finger-snapping, gum-chewing English, sometimes slipping in a palabrita o frase espanol.” The impact it caused to her can be seen when she immigrated to the United States. At that point, she thought she had no place or culture, all cultural events in that country were very different from those of the Dominican Republic; the way of life, dances, the to dress. The United States has always maintained a great development in terms of its culture, it is very liberal. During that decade in the Dominican Republic, women were brilliant but they did not think they were very important to society; as Julia states: “a woman did not have a public voice. She did not have a public life, except through her husband, her brothers, her sons, and her endless streams of male cousins.”

Her parents decided that her and her sisters should learn English and get a good education in America; what was a great cultural impact for them. Even living so long in the United States and having assimilated the culture of that country, she never felt herself American enough. In this new culture she and her sisters were to find new ways of being, to see with the language change, new ways of talking. It was the opportunity to create from scratch that led her to become a great writer. One of the things that helped her enough to get used to this culture was that her parents never moved from the place where they lived, so that helped because it was quite a concentration of Dominicans and Latinos who kept alive their values and traditions. Finally, for her, those two worlds with very different cultures were major bridges in her writings.

Something that the writer refers to, is the contrasting in the education of both nations for the time. In the Dominican Republic was normal if a woman leaves her studies to get married, the writer tells that when many of her trips to the island it was the subject that her aunts were always talking about, an example is shown in the essay “Have Typewriter, Will Travel”, third line of first paragraph But this was not unique to her family, but that was the way in which society viewed that; besides, the political crisis that lived at the time under a dictatorial regime where the role of women was as a homemaker. To reach the United States which became her new country, the picture was not very encouraging, because the country had gone through a great recession and prepared to face the second world war, and even more, having to face a completely different language, but this does not rest with the writer to go through the different educational levels, showing that in North American women had the same facilities as men, meaning that society was not against the advancement of women.

Other contrast that can be seen in the book is regarding the reaction of Dominican and American people towards strangers. When Julia came to the Dominican Republic to make a research about the Mirabal sisters to write In the Time of the Butterflies, everybody was willing to collaborate and help her to find the truth about their lives and their tragical death. Though none of them knew Julia before, they contributed by giving testimonies or taking her to the places they lived in. Furthermore, during the investigation, she met the closest relatives of the sisters who are still alive, including daughters, one of their aunts, even the fourth sister, Dedé. They all made a great collaboration to Julia for her to create a best seller in 1994.

Whereas, when she went to Necedah, Wisconsin, to investigate about Mary Ann and the Virgin apparitions to write a novel, she found poor collaboration from the church because they did not believe in Mary Ann visitations. So, they kept everybody related to her or interested in knowing about her away from them. Only a few people, including Mary Ann’s daughter, contributed to Julia in her research.

Those two essays (Chasing the Butterflies and In the Name of the Novel) state the differe nces between Dominican and American culture. Dominican people are more friendly, warmer, and hospitable than American ones, who are more reserved, discreet, and aloof regarding unknown people. As a result, even though Julia considers herself as a Vermonter because of the time she has lived in there, she cannot forget her roots, her origin, and her first native language.

Those two essays (Chasing the Butterflies and In the Name of the Novel) state the differences between Dominican and American culture. Dominican people are more friendly, warmer, and hospitable than American ones, who are more reserved, discreet, and aloof regarding unknown people. As a result, even though Julia considers herself as a Vermonter because of the time she has lived in there, she cannot forget her roots, her origin, and her first native language.


After reading the essays, in which the great writer Julia Alvarez opens her soul to let everybody into her feelings and thoughts, a bigger admiration for her has grown up within everyone of us as her readers. Even though we had read some of her books before, we had not realized the deep significance of the work J. Alvarez has done during her career. Reading this wonderful book is when we have discovered the real essence of her as a writer and as a human being.

There is an element in the dynamics of these trials that is highlighted. J. Alvarez speaks constantly of golden childhood as a member of a noble family, is not the same to speak and write about a poor family, than to speak and write about a wealthy family in a higher stratum of Dominican society. The effect on readers and the success of this writer will be different, because some will see her as conceited.

Indeed, there is a picture of Julia coming out of these essays, and from her novels as well, and is the image of J. Alvarez, the pretentious. But it would be a mistake to use that image in literal terms, since it embodies something that goes beyond what this word (pretentious) means in its social meaning, because though her father was not rich, Julia had it all, through her mother’s family where she lived a life surrounded by comfort.

For the year 1960, everything changed, due to political reasons, she and her family had to flee the island, having to face another gloomy reality. She experience loneliness, homesickness, racial prejudice and worse of all having to deal with a new language, making her dream life crumbled. It never was the same, this is where we begin to identify with J. Alvarez, the humble, the simple, is where she became a normal person.

Upon completion of this course, Julia is no longer daddy’s girl whose image dominated in her books, is a woman who got maturity, who has learned to live her life with depth, a life very different from the shallow and empty life, which would have been if she had been living in Santo Domingo, in her darling status.

So, in effect, this is what Julia says in these essays. “I have become myself, I managed to be somebody, to do something, I crossed the desert of loneliness and rejection”, says, to reach the success, and the success are my books, my art”. Sufficient read a few pages of these essays to realize how proud she feels about this triumph. And she should feel that way, because, after all, achieve what many others have not achieved with the same experience.


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