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Something to Declare Hardcover – August 1, 1998

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Having transformed her tumultuous life story?a passage from childhood in the Dominican Republic and Queens, N.Y., to a career as a celebrated author and creative writing teacher?into a body of startlingly lyrical fiction and poetry (!Yo!, etc.), Alvarez here chronicles that journey in nonfiction form. These 24 autobiographical essays are meant to answer various questions her readers have posed about her life and her writing. For Alvarez, these questions ultimately can be summed up in one line: "Do you have anything more to declare?" The first section of the book, "Customs," paints with vibrant, earthy clarity?in classic Alvarez style?the author's Dominican girlhood, surrounded by the rich cast of characters that made up her extended family and the constant menace of dictator Rafael Trujillo's police state. She also describes her escape to the U.S. with her parents and sisters, along with the assimilation that made her a "hyphenated American." The seeds of her writerly beginnings are picked out here and then further explored in the second part of her book, "Declarations." These essays examine the difficult balance between the writing life and "real life"; the joys of teaching; the daily process of writing; and an unsuccessful trip to Necedeh, Wis., to research a potential novel. Alvarez also includes her "ten commandments" for writing, which consist of some of the author's favorite quotes (beginning with a Zen saying and ending with Samuel Johnson's well-known credo, "If you want to be a writer, then write. Write every day!"). Taken together, the pieces are as open and lively as Alvarez's readers have come to expect from her work, although the inspiration and guidance they offer to aspiring writers are less striking. (Sept.) FYI: Plume has just published the Spanish-language edition of Alvarez's second novel, In the Time of the Butterflies; Plume's Spanish edition of !Yo! will be out in 1999.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From School Library Journal

YA-The poet and novelist brings together two dozen pithy autobiographical essays that are by turn humorous, thoughtful, or frightening. The first third of the book follows Alvarez's early Dominican childhood-when she was one of the wild cousins who was seated between well-behaved ones at family gatherings-through her family's immigration to the United States and their assimilation. Later essays take up the author's college years, budding career as a writer, marriages, and return trips to the Dominican Republic. Alvarez presents her personal experiences with a literary skill that converts them into universal moments. This book will delight her fans, attract new readers to her previous work, and open the possibility for discussions about experiences with emigration, immigration, growing apart from one's family, and discovering one's own career path and status as an adult.
Francisca Goldsmith, Berkeley Public Library, CA
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 300 pages
  • Publisher: Algonquin Books; 1st edition (August 1, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1565121937
  • ISBN-13: 978-1565121935
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 1 x 8.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,509,916 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

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By dikybabe on February 25, 2001
Format: Paperback
Ever since reading In the Time of the Butterflies, I have been convinced that Julia Alvarez was a gifted writer. This collection of her essays was purchased for our library to add to our creative writing teacher's curricular tools. I couldn't resist being the first to sample same. Alvarez has a way of talking to the reader that makes her essays ever so readable. I especially love the personal illuminations of her family in the Dominican Republic and in the states. What a fascinating immigrant story! One of my favorite essays is "Chasing the Butterfies" which put chills on me as I recalled the power in her novel that made me into her fan. I am not surprised that she is connected to the Bread Loaf writers. What quality comes from that group! I was a late-in-life discoverer of writers outside of the CANON, but I never again shall believe that only the canon has quality. The multicultural writers that I have discovered since 1992 as a member of the NEH sponsored Common Ground at the University of Houston, have enriched my life and the lives of my students. Any would be writer should read these Alvarez revelations. Being able to come and go from the entries makes the work so very user friendly. Brava, Julia!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By D. Pawl VINE VOICE on July 23, 2005
Format: Paperback
I am a great fan of Julia Alvarez's writing, and am also greatly appreciative of her strength of character as an inspirational Latina writer. Many of you may be familiar with her books "In the Time of Butterflies" and "How the Garcia Girls Lost their Accents." In this book, we get a better sense of Julia Alvarez, the woman, the writer, the artist and (in her words) a "hyphenated American." (i.e, Dominican-American) These twenty-four essays offer a glimpse into her life, and what inspired her to persue writing. Alvarez had a lot of great material from her childhood, growing up the daughter of a revolutionary who was part of the opposition against Trujillo, the former dictator of the Dominican Republic. Julia also possessed a great wit and imagination, throughout her academic and personal life.

We are so honored that this great woman decided to convey her thoughts and stories through writing. This is definitely her true talent. What a true inspiration for all aspiring writers (Latina and otherwise). This book is engaging, warmly accessible and insightful. Highly reccomended!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Peggy Vincent on August 17, 2003
Format: Paperback
Alvarez has mined deeply into her childhood in Dominican Republic and her family's flight from Trujillo to Queens, NY, as sources for her lyrical fiction and poetry. At last she launches herself into nonfiction, and the result is Something to Declare. The book is a collection of 24 autobiographical essays focused on her life and her personal writing process. The first part chronicles her girlhood in DR, surrounded with a rich and varied cast of characters comprised of her huge family, the servants, her classmates and nursemaids. It ends with her family's escape to America and documents the beginning of the difficult assimilation process.
In the second part of Something to Declare, Alvarez talks about her writing process, the difficulty balancing a writing life with teaching and her "real life," and concludes with her Ten Commandments for writing, a poster of which hangs above my computer.
This book is a gift from Julia Alvarez to her many fans, and we thank her for it.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 26, 1998
Format: Hardcover
I spent much of last night reading the galley of Alvarez's first essay collection. It's so alive and so beautifully drawn. Nothing surprises me more than when a novelist or poet allows the reader to get to know her directly -- Alvarez does with remarkable results.
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Format: Kindle Edition
Sometimes a reader picks up a gem of a book that offers so much insight that the pages turn effortlessly. This book, Something to Declare: Essays by Julia Alvarez is just that. In these wonderful autobiographical essays, the author takes the reader through the different landscapes of her life. From a child growing up in the Dominican Republic during Rafael Trujillo's dictatorship to her adult life as a tenured professor living in Virginia. These 24 essays will suck you in and make you realize that the landscapes of your own life provide you with unique strengths. I recommend this book to any writer looking for inspiration. Julia provides great insight in to the writing life, as well as the absolute need to appreciate the written word as a strong reader to strengthen your writing. After traveling to the Dominican Republic for the first time last year, I picked this book up because I wanted a better background on the beautiful country I visited, and and Julia provides a rich and vibrant look into the history culture of this country.
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Format: Paperback
Julia Alvarez has a way of writing that makes you feel as though you know her. She says what that voice, deep in the back of her head, is saying. I love that! She is dedicated to her readers with her honesty. It's pretty obvious that she values her readers as much as she does the art of writing. This book (especially the last essay) is inspiring. I am not a writer, but an artist, and I found that her words changed my work for the better. Kudos to Alvarez! This was the first of her books that I've read but I am soooo going to pick up "In the Time of the Butterflies" now!
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