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Yo! Paperback – December 1, 1997

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

The heroine of Julia Alvarez's Yo! is an author who writes what she knows--much to the chagrin of her close-knit immigrant family. During the first chapter, one of Yolanda (Yo) Garcia's sisters explains the basic problem: "I always was a reader, but now, whenever I open a book, even if it's something by someone dead, all I can do is shake my head and think oh my god, I wonder what their family thought of this story." Yo's friends and family members, many of whom appeared in Alvarez's earlier novel, How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents, take turns narrating this book. They draw a vivid portrait of the writer, describing her big mouth and high-strung nature as well as the details of her youth in the Dominican Republic. They're often more keenly aware of class, gender, and racial divisions than is Yo herself. When Yo returns to the Dominican Republic to spend a summer reconnecting with her roots, for instance, the servants at the family estate regard her as a very strange (but likeable) foreigner. In another segment, Yo's landlord, whose husband beats her, describes the writer's efforts to save her from the abusive relationship. In these episodes and others, Yo comes across as a woman who doesn't quite fathom the complexity of the events going on around her but has so much good will and verve that people forgive her small transgressions. It is a pleasure to hear all these diverse voices; some are funny, some wistful, but all of them seem to think Yolanda Garcia is the bee's knees. Yo! is a thoughtful, entertaining novel about the immigrant experience and the impact writers have on the lives of their peers. --Jill Marquis

From Publishers Weekly

The opening chapter of Alvarez's splendid sequel to her first novel, How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents, is so exuberant and funny, delivered in such rattle-and-snap dialogue, that readers will think they are in for a romp. It is narrated by Sandi, one of the four Garcia sisters whom we encounter again three decades after they emigrated to the States from the political dictatorship of the Dominican Republic. As will all the other narrators in this richly textured narrative, Sandi focuses on her sister Yolanda, "Yo," the object of much bitterness and resentment in the family since she has begun to use their lives as material for the books she writes. In the succeeding sections, we flash back to Yo's first years in America, her school and college days, when she exuded pizzazz and potential as a brilliant, if capricious, student obviously destined for a spectacular career. Slowly the canvas darkens, as various people in her life (a cousin on "the island," the daughter of the family's maid, a college professor who is her mentor) create a composite picture of a clever, impetuous, initially strong-willed-but progressively self-doubting and insecure-woman who has lost her early promise. Instead of achieving emotional and professional fulfillment, at 33 Yo is lonely, unfocused, twice divorced, childless and still searching for her identity. Then come several surprising plot twists that leave Yo free to find her destiny. In addition to revealing the details of Yo's complicated life, the 15 chapters are also fully nuanced portraits of their quite varied narrators, whose own experiences range from adventurous to quietly heart-wrenching. Alvarez's's command of Latino voices has always been impeccable, but here she is equally adept at conveying the personalities of a geographically diverse group of Americans as well: an obese woman abused by her blue-collar husband, an ex-football player and an aging Southern hippy, among others. But it is Yo, rocketing among lovers, husbands, self-doubts, shortlived enthusiasms, dead-end jobs and the first tentative satisfactions of a career, whom we get to know obliquely but fully as she belatedly finds the center of her existence. Though her sisters have become fully Americanized, Yo has been the victim of cultural dislocation and of a submerged childhood memory revealed only in the last chapter; she has become a stranger to herself. Alvarez's canny, often tart-tongued appraisals of two contrasting cultures, her inspired excursions into the hearts of her vividly realized characters, are a triumph of imaginative virtuosity. This is an entrancing novel, at once an evocation of a complex heroine and a wise and compassionate view of life's vicissitudes and the chances for redemption. Author tour.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Plume; First Paperback Edition edition (December 1, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0452279186
  • ISBN-13: 978-0452279186
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.4 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.1 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #457,771 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

17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Carol S. VINE VOICE on August 21, 2000
Format: Paperback
I thoroughly enjoyed this well-written and entertaining novel about Yolanda Garcia, a Dominican-American author and her family. This is the first Julia Alvarez book I've read, so I cannot compare it to her other work, but "Yo!" certainly is capable of standing on its own as a work of fiction. Nor did I feel that I ought to have read "How the Garcia Girls..." first to fully appreciate the novel(although I now would like to, since I enjoyed this book so much). I particularly liked the novel's Rashomon-like technique of telling Yo's story in bits and pieces, through the perspective of the people who have come in and out of her life. Each chapter is written from a different person's point of view (skillfully rendered) and casts a different light on Yo's character and life. We meet her nearest and dearest - sister, cousin, best friend - as well as more tangential characters - the caretaker on her uncle's estate, a former student. Each person tells us something about Yo's character and about events in her life, and just as in real life, the picture we get of Yo isn't always 100 percent consistent. My only criticism is that I felt that one of the novel's key themes --how an author mines her own life for material, and the effect this process has on those close to her -- wasn't fully realized in the book, taking a backseat to the portrait of Yo that is fleshed out chapter by chapter, person by person. But there's a lot to like in "Yo!": clear and vivid writing, great characterization, emotional impact, a fascinating immigration story, and cleverly shifting points of view.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By joejoe99@easyway.net on June 10, 1998
Format: Paperback
Julia Alvarez' writing is characterized by her impeccable ability to create convincing characters whose travails and disappointments, joys and triumphs, the reader inevitably experiences as though he were an integral part of the book. In this, the sequel to How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents, Alvarez once again has taken us in a wild ride that reverberates with the sound of truth. Amazingly, we re-acquaint ourselves with the Garcia sisters, and especially with Yolanda (Yo), while at the same time we meet a whole new procession of characters who--at one time or another--have had an impact in Yo's life. This novel works so well because even though each chapter is told from a different point of view (so that at the end we're looking at a composite picture of Yolanda as seen by these narrators), Alvarez has successfully endowed each narrator with a distinctive, entirely credible voice. As usual, the stories are alternately poignant and hilarious, ponderous and lighthearted, yet regardless of the tone, Alvarez masterfully compels the reader to look at life in a different light, because love, death, failures, triumphs, and dreams is what human existence is all about. In short, a triumph!
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Linda Linguvic HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on March 25, 2000
Format: Paperback
The book is arranged in 16 chapters, each one told from the point of view of another character. Yolanda "Yo" Garcia, from the Dominican Republic, is central to each of these chapters, but always through the eyes of someone else.
There's the story of the maid in the Garcia household, Yo's professor at college who urges her get a doctorate, Yo's best woman friend who attends a therapy group with her, her landlady who is abused by her husband and a student whose story she plagiarizes. I felt the best chapters were the ones set in the Dominican Republic, where Yo returns each summer to write. There's the old woman who asks Yo to write a letter for her, there are the caretakers on the estate, there's the night watchman who can't read or write, and there's a chapter where one of Yo's suitors joins her in the family compound during the time that Yo's uncle is running for president of the country.
The book is the strongest when it contrasts the servant class with the privileged class. However, all the supporting characters are much better developed than the central character, Yo. Also, there weren't any real facts about the Dominican Republic so that I could see the story in context of history. And Yo herself never really emerged with the deep characterization the author intended. I wasn't drawn into her personality or her complexities. The book was fast pleasant reading, but I yearned for more depth.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Denisse Comarazamy on August 23, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Julia Alvarez is definitely a gifted writer, I have read before "In the time of the butterflies" and "In the name of Salome", both great books, and they were the whole reason I decided to buy "Yo", without knowing that I should have read first "How the Garcia sisters lost their accent", but anyway, this one is a great book, I really liked Yolanda García, I have to admit that in the preface I didn't like her, but as I kept on reading Yo started to grow in me...
I liked all the chapters; it is incredible how someone can touch through out an entire life so much people without even knowing. I think Yo was a good person, it seems to me that she just wanted to be accepted and loved by the family she adored and some reassurance that writing was her destiny, and her father gave her that by blessing her with both hands in her head in the last chapter.
"The Stalker" was the one chapter I didn't like; it took me days just to finish it... The others were amazing, specially "The wedding guests", I loved the way every invited guest gave their opinion about the others and talk about how their lives have being touched by Yo. Others chapters like "The father" were just a pleasure to read.
This is a very good book by a very good writer and I highly recommend it. Now I am going to buy her other novels, in particular "How the Garcia sisters..." and "Before we were free". It is always going to be a pleasure to read one of Julia Alvarez books...
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