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In the Name of Salome Hardcover – June 9, 2000

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Editorial Reviews Review

It's 1960, and 65-year-old Camila Ureña decides to join the New World. Castro's new world, that is, which she has been following on the news with a heated excitement she hasn't felt for years. Forced into early retirement from her 20-year post as a Spanish teacher among the perky white girls of Vassar College, Camila faces a choice: whether to move to Florida and live down the block from her best friend or to fly over Florida and into Havana where her brothers live--and thereby land in a place of upheaval and hungry ghosts. The hungriest ghost of all is Camila's mother, Salomé Ureña, whose poems became inspirational anthems for a short-lived revolution in the late-19th-century Dominican Republic.

Based in fact, In the Name of Salomé alternates between Camila's story and her mother's. Camila's chapters are written in the third person, Salomé's in the first. By calling Camila "she," Alvarez alienates her within the text--as if in her attic at Vassar she is floating outside herself in an America that does not belong to her. In contrast, Salomé's chapters vibrate with life and tears and melodrama. Through the alternating voices, which Alvarez handles masterfully, the reader comes to grasp Camila's longing for the color and music of her mother's lost world--how the meek daughter wishes "she" could become the "I" of her mother's revolutionary and passionate life as a poet, which began under a pseudonym, Herminia, in a local political paper:

Each time there was a new poem by Herminia in the paper, Mamá would close the front shutters of the house and read it in a whisper to the rest of us. She was delighted with the brave Herminia. I felt guilty keeping this secret from her, but I knew if I told her, all her joy would turn to worry.
Yet for Salomé, her pseudonym allows her to become the voice of a country, "and with every link she cracked open for la patria, she was also setting me free." --Emily White

From Publishers Weekly

The Dominican Republic's most famous poet and her daughter, a professor in the United States, are the remarkable protagonists of this lyrical work, one of the most moving political novels of the past half century. Camila Henr!quez Ure$a is introduced as an "eminent Hispanicist, a woman with two doctorates [and] a tenured chair" at Vassar. She is also the exiled daughter of both renowned Dominican poet Salom Ure$a and the country's last democratically elected president. Born in 1850, Salom called a revolution into being with her fearless poetry. Even as an adolescent, she saw her pseudonymous poems inspire bloodshed in the streets. Camila, born in 1894, followed the fortunes of her famous family into exile, first in Cuba, then on her own in the U.S., where she became an academic's academic. Alvarez, who has written more than once about women in exile (How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents) and women revolutionaries (In the Time of the Butterflies), and who is herself a poet, academic and exile, has found in Salom and Camila Ure$a her best topic yet. The novel's protagonists are based on real characters, yet by offering history through the lenses of both the poet and the scholar, as well as by portraying male-dominated events from the perspective of female activists, Alvarez conveys purely Latin American revolutionary idealism with an intellectual sensuality that eschews magical realism. The narrative flows freely across timeDHavana in 1935; Minnesota in 1918; Washington, D.C., in 1923; Santa Domingo in the mid to late 19th century; Poughkeepsie in the 1950sDand is punctuated with letters and poetry. While Salom is the flame that heats this cauldron, Camila tends the fire.When she retires from teaching in 1960, she must choose a meaningful conclusion to her life. Her long-time love, Marion, though recently married, invites her to live nearby in Florida. But born and bred to revolution, Camila has been too long away from the fray. It is not giving away anything to say that she spends the next 13 years in Cuba, heeding the old call to create "Jos Mart!'s America Now." $50,000 ad/promo; 22-city author tour. (June)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Algonquin Books; 1st edition (June 9, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1565122763
  • ISBN-13: 978-1565122765
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 1.2 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,982,571 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Julia Alvarez has bridged the Americas many times. Born in New York and raised in the Dominican Republic, she is a poet, fiction writer, and essayist, author of world-renowned books in each of the genres, including How the García Girls Lost their Accents, In the Time of the Butterflies, and Something to Declare. She lives on a farmstead outside Middlebury, Vermont, with her husband Bill Eichner. Visit Julia's Web site here to find out more about her writing.

Julia and Bill own an organic coffee farm called Alta Gracia in her native country of the Dominican Republic. Their specialty coffee is grown high in the mountains on what was once depleted pastureland. Not only do they grow coffee at Alta Gracia, but they also work to bring social, environmental, spiritual, and political change for the families who work on their farm. They use the traditional methods of shad-grown coffee farming in order to protect the environment, they pay their farmers a fair and living wage, and they have a school on their farm where children and adults learn to read and write. For more information about Alta Gracia, visit their website.

Belkis Ramírez, who created the woodcuts for A Cafecito Story, is one of the most celebrated artists in the Dominican Republic.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

28 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Debbie Lee Wesselmann TOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 10, 2000
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In recent years, literary authors and publishing houses have published dozens of fictionalized accounts of historical figures, with Joyce Carol Oates' BLONDE (Marilyn Monroe) and Russell Banks' CLOUDSPLITTER (John Brown) being prime examples of this genre. Because I'm tiring of such fiction, I never would have bought IN THE NAME OF SALOME if I had known Alvarez had joined this literary trend - and I would have missed out on a fabulous book as a result. Yes, this may not be Alvarez's best work, but the literary standards and emotional impact are still higher than most novels published today. This deeply imaginative portrait of the Dominican poet Salome Urena and her daughter Camila captures the people behind the revolutions in the Dominican Republic and Cuba without idealizing them, without relegating them to mouths spouting political dogma. As Salome says to her young husband when he chides her for writing a non-revolutionary poem, "I am a woman as well as a poet." This is exactly what Alvarez accomplishes: an adept melding of the public and private sides of her characters to give her book real heart.
This novel spans over a hundred years, from the 1850's (the beginning of Salome's story) to the 1970's (the end of Camila's story.) Because the two stories are interspersed and are not told chronologically, the time and place can sometimes be confusing despite the chapter headings meant to give the reader his bearings. Don't let this frustrate you; the story is well worth this flaw. My advice is just to give yourself up to Alvarez's skill and let her take you where she wants.
I think most of Alvarez's fans will not be disappointed, and I believe she will gain a few more with this novel, perhaps enticing these newcomers to read her earlier work.
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Denisse Comarazamy on May 7, 2002
Format: Paperback
No sabía que Julia Alvarez había escrito este libro hasta que me encontré con él en la Feria de Libro que recién finalizó aquí en la República Dominicana. Pensé en un inicio que sería una biografía más, sólo con "nació, fue poeta nacional y murió", sin embargo, al leer el resumen del libro y al pasar unas paginas me percaté que no era así, debo admitir que me impresionaron las primeras 5 líneas del 1er. capítulo.
Compré el libro sin saber que los cápítulos interactuaban uno con el otro de manera tal que logran que el mismo sea todavía más fascinante. Me encantó leer la vida de Salomé Ureña según iba creciendo y luego ver la vida de Camila, su hija, desde su vejez hasta su niñez. Fue sencillamente EXITANTE!!!! no podía dejar de leer, terminaba un capítulo y no podía esperar para empezar el otro.
Me sorprendieron muchos detalles de la vida de Salomé que desconocía aún siendo dominicana, pero más grato fue conocer la vida de Camila de la cual no sabía nada. (Aún cuando sé que hay aspectos de la vida de ambas que son producto de la imaginación de la autora).
Ahora bien, recomiendo que antes de leer "En el nombre de Salomé" adquieran los poemas de Salomé Ureña, para así leer cada uno de ellos según son mencionados en el libro y así entender mucho más esta magnífica obra y la grandiosa vida de esta poeta.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Tamala Newbold on January 3, 2002
Format: Paperback
I judge a good book by whether, and to what extent, I think about the book after I've finished reading. Needless to say, nearly two weeks after finishing this book, its passages and characters have stayed with me. Alvarez's writing is simply beautiful, much more like poetry than prose. The "historical" background on political strife in the Dominican Republic was insightful, and I found the characters to be quite complex and interesting. This is the first book I've read by Julia Alvarez, and now I'm eager to delve into her other works.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By D. E. W. Turner on June 23, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is an historical novel about two people - a mother and daughter. The mother was Salomé Ureña, the poet laureate of the Dominican Republic. She wrote patriotic poems that inspired her country to rebel against Spain and she founded a school for girls at a time when girls were encouraged not to learn to read or write. She married Francisco Henríquez y Carvajal, with whom she had three sons and a daughter Camila, who was born three years before Salomé died of tuberculous in 1897. Camila was raised by her father and her stepmother Natividad Lauranzón. She became a professor of Spanish at Vassar University, from which she retired in 1960 - and went to Cuba to join Fidel Castro's revolution. She left Cuba at her youngest half-brother's insistence and died in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, on September 12, 1973, being buried beside her parents. It was a very interesting book about revolution, the causes, and the idealism - as well as the disappointments and heartbreak of the idealists when they realize reality conflicts with idealism.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Sanchez on January 11, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This book is I was immediately drawn to it since i knew that Julia Alvarez wrote it but once i started reading i fell in a trance. I sat and read it from finish to end without stopping. The way Julia picked each word and made it rhyme with the flow of the story was simply beautiful. I loved this book so much that it is my favorite book. I have read it at least 5 times both in English and Spanish and each time I am deeply moved with it.

The book is about two women, mother and daughter. Each chapter changes from the mothers perspective when she was alive and the daughters perspective now that she is trying to bring out the bits of her mom that are in her.

The whole book is simply remarkable! What can be more beautiful than a daughter struggling to be the Woman her mother was.
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