Saturday, January 22, 2011

Book 5: Once Upon a Quinceanera, by Julia Alvarez

Book 5 was Once Upon a Quinceanera, by Julia Alvarez.

Intended to be an examination of how the quinceanera celebration affects Latinas in our community, by the end, Alvarez loses track a bit and heads more into personal exploration.

Quinceaneras are the often very elaborate parties thrown for Latina girls for their 15th birthdays; think a Hispanic sweet sixteen. Various traditions, which started who-knows-where, include girls being dolled up in enormous white puffy gowns; girls' fathers exchanging the girls' flat shoes for heels; girls being crowned with tiaras; a 14 couple court to escort the girl into womanhood; and so forth. No one can seem to agree on where this tradition came from, but the purpose generally is to acknowledge the girls' statuses as "women" instead of "girls," marking their eligibility for marriage.

Alvarez explores what this really means in today's society. We no longer live in a world where girls get married at 15, yet this tradition says "you're a woman now, time to go be a grown up." There are no statistics directly relating "los quinces" to things like dropping out of high school or getting pregnant, but Alvarez does cite other studies that indicate that Latina girls in the US are generally in trouble - they drop out, have children, get involved with drugs, etc., at earlier ages than their white counterparts.

Overall, the book was alright. As I stated earlier, Alvarez lost sight of the quinceanera theme a bit by the end, instead focusing on her own troubles "at that age" and what might have been done for her as a Dominican-American. Although this does contribute to the theme of the book - the importance for Latino/a families to focus on helping their girls really fit into the expectations of American society while still maintaining an appreciation for their heritage - she doesn't really tie it in as nicely as one might expect from a published book.

Next book: Pornified, by Pamela Paul.

1 comment:

  1. I read "How the García Girls Lost Their Accents" bu Julia Alvarez. I have to say, I didn't really like the way it was written, and it too lost its theme by the end.

    Thanks for the add!