Kittens in the Oven: Race Relations, Traumatic Memory, and the Search for Identity in Julia Alvarez’s How the García Girls Lost Their Accents
Rupkatha Journal on Interdisciplinary Studies in Humanities
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The search for an ever-elusive home is a thread that runs throughout much literature by authors who have immigrated to the United States. Dominican authors are particularly susceptible to this search for a home because “for many Dominicans, home is synonymous with political and/or economic repression and is all too often a point of departure on a journey of survival” (Bonilla 200). This “journey of survival” is a direct reference to the dictatorship of Rafael Leonidas Trujillo Molina, who controlled the Dominican Republic from 1930-1961. The pain and trauma that Trujillo inflicted upon virtually everyone associated with the Dominican Republic during this era is still heartbreakingly apparent, and perhaps nowhere is that trauma more thoroughly illustrated than in the literature of Julia Alvarez. Alvarez is a prime example of an author who utilizes narrative in a clear attempt to come to grips with lingering traumatic memories. After her father’s role in an attempt to overthrow the dictator is revealed, Alvarez’s family is forced to flee the Dominican Republic as political exiles, and a sense of displacement has haunted her since. Because both the Dominican Republic and the United States are extraordinary racially charged, concepts of home and identity are inextricably bound to race relations in much of Alvarez’s art. Using theoretical concepts drawn from the fields of trauma studies and Black cultural studies, this essay examines Alvarez’s debut novel in order to illustrate the myriad ways in which culture, politics, and race converge and speak through each other, largely in the form of traumas that can irreparably alter one’s sense of home, voice, and identity.
This article was originally published in the Rupkatha Journal on Interdisciplinary Studies in Humanities, all rights reserved.
Carter, Natalie. "Kittens in the Oven: Race Relations, Traumatic Memory, and the Search for Identity in Julia Alvarez’s How the García Girls Lost Their Accents" Rupkatha Journal on Interdisciplinary Studies in Humanities 2.3 (2010): 319-334. Available from: http://digitalcommons.butler.edu/facsch_papers/380
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