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Something to Declare

3.98  ·  Rating details ·  717 Ratings  ·  54 Reviews
"Reading Julia Alvarez's new collection of essays is like curling up with a glass of wine in one hand and the phone in the other, listening to a big-hearted, wisecracking friend share hard-earned wisdom about family, identity, and the art of writing." --People The rich and revealing essays in Something to Declare offer Julia Alvarez's dual meditations on coming to America ...more
Paperback, 300 pages
Published September 1st 1999 by Plume Books (first published August 1st 1998)
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Oct 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Julia Alvarez pens her biographical essays here. She imparts worldly words of wisdom in a humorous way to us all. Always full of anecdotes to tell, Alvarez writes a truthful counterpart to her book Yo! Recommend to all literary aficionados.
Ms. Wayne
Publishers Weekly

Having transformed her tumultuous life story -- a passage from childhood in the Dominican Republic and Queens, New York, to a career as a celebrated author and creative writing teacher -- into a body of startlingly lyrical fiction and poetry, 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
This book is a collection of autobiographical essays by Julia Alvarez. In the essays, she writes about things such as coming to the United States from the Dominican Republic as a child, cooking and gardening, and her experiences with writing.

One of her essays was about research she was doing for a book about a woman in Necedah, Wisconsin who was had visions of the Virgin Mary and established a cult following. It was interesting to read about the ideas she had for the book and how they were tran
Jennifer Brooke
Mar 31, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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 th ...more
Dec 11, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: latino-lit
I can't say I read every word of every essay in this book, but I did appreciate Alvarez's straightforward conversational style and gaining some insight into her writing process and her own personal journey as an immigrant and Dominican American woman, feeling eternally displaced in both her homeland and her new home.

My biggest complaint about these essays is that they felt a bit repetitive - probably because they were collected from different sources and written for different reasons, but someti
Aug 22, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This thoughtful and illuminating collection of essays by the self-described “Vermont Writer from the Dominican Republic” is divided into two groups the first, “Customs” are memories of growing up in the Dominican Republic under the last years of the Trujillo dictatorship, her family’s escape to New York, and the difficulties of assimilating into a not altogether welcoming foreign Anglo culture. The second part, “Declarations,” collects her thoughts on writing, how she turns her experiences and i ...more
Jul 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
Wow - I loved this book! I am only sorry that I let it sit so long before choosing it from my shelf. I thought I would read one essay at a time over a few weeks it basically read it in 2 sittings. I have read some of this author's novels and poems and love her voice. Reading these essays was the same experience - a rich and satisfying menu of stories that tell of transition, commitment, and the need to honor a life of words. I love this sentence: "In a world without any books, we would not be th ...more
Tina Bembry
I loved this. The essays gave such a great view of a family growing up in several worlds, and how their identity was formed by that. I think as I read more biographical accounts, it is part of humanity to feel like we DON'T belong more often than we feel like we do. Each person's reasons for feeling different are individual, but we all seem burdened by the weight of homelessness. That makes it sound like this book is very sad, but it isn't.

The last few chapters are about writing and the writing
Steve Williams
Oct 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
even though there were a few essays here that fell flat for me, and even though it gets to me the way alvarez (in my opinion) tends to downplay certain privileges she's had, this was an engaging collection for me. my favorites were the ones that were about alvarez realizing she wanted to write and having to figure out what that meant for her life. "family matters," which is about being a writer who comes from a big, close-knit family and the conflicts between those two things, was easily the hig ...more
May 16, 2008 rated it really liked it
A great book for writers or writing teachers. While she tells her own stories, she also talks about what it means to be a writer: "I had one of the first in a lucky line of great English teachers who began to nurture me in a love of language." Hooray for English teachers (among other influences)! The last chapter especially focuses on writing, but the whole book is lyrical in the way only Alvarez can write.
Linda Abhors the New GR Design
In one essay, she clearly lays out her process for writing....where she gets/save her impressions and mental images. I remember feeling almost inspired to write, I, who have always considered myself someone without anything to declare. I also love the essay on speaking Spanish in the US; reference this to my students all of the time.
Mar 03, 2008 rated it liked it
I liked the first half of the book, which describes Alvarez's experiences as a girl in the Dominican Republic and as an immigrant, much more than the second half, which describes her experience growing into being an author.
Dec 06, 2013 rated it really liked it
I'm usually not a fan of short stories or a book of essays, but this one was really good. The stories connected, but maybe that's because I was familiar with the author's other books... I really liked it though.
Jul 25, 2011 added it
Great insight into Alvarez's life and writing process. Having read her semi-autobiographical novel "How the Garcia Girls lost their Accents," it was fascinating to get a glimpse into her experiences as an immigrant.
Rachel Prichard
Feb 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing
First non fiction by this author. Series of delightful essays about how she came to be an author and the circumstances of her childhood, growing up in the Dominican Republic, the family's flight to New York and the challenges of their new life.
Nov 23, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
I own it, loved reading each story, and this book increased my love of Alvarez as an author and a person.
Nancy Dobson
Feb 23, 2015 rated it really liked it
I'm now on a mission to read everything by Julia Alvarez. Interesting essays on a combination of her background and her life as a writer. I definitely recommend it.
Feb 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
It was a very good book! I really enjoyed the stories relating to her childhood.

I'd also recommend When I Was Puerto Rican and Almost a Woman by Esmeralda Santiago. She has a wonderfully entertaining writing style
Sep 04, 2017 rated it it was ok
I love the works of Julia Alvarez and this collection of essays offered interesting glimpses of her journey.
Feb 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: the-essay
I have so enjoyed my time with this collection of essays. Something to Declare had me looking forward to reading more about Julia Alvarez's craft as a writer and her relationship with language over these past few days. Its rare that an artist can articulate that blending of life - whether it be politics, social activism, ideology, romantic entanglements, family and whatever else - with how her art came to be. Toni Morrison, Sandra Cisneros, and Junot Diaz immediately come to mind. I appreciate t ...more
Apr 10, 2011 rated it really liked it
This is a terrific read! I enjoyed each and every chapter.I loved learning about how the author researches an idea for her books and the process and patience it takes. She is refreshingly candid and honest. Reading about her writing process and interjecting the writing process of other writers was very informative and real.

Favorite quotes: "So does writing really matter?...It matters, of course, it matters. But it matters in such a small, almost invisible way that it doesn't seem very important
Feb 19, 2010 rated it really liked it
Probably more of a 3.5 rating, but I love Alvarez's writing style so much that I'm bumping to the next star. This is a collection of essays, and I enjoyed some more than others. I skimmed some, and others brought tears to my eyes. I finished this book in the midst of my young adult reading; her last essay on why writing matters gave me a fresh burst of enthusiasm for teaching. One quick excerpt from that essay: "It matters, of course, it matters. But it matters in such a small, almost invisible ...more
Carol Rizzardi
Oct 27, 2010 rated it really liked it
Alvarez has a wonderful conversational style and sense of humor that makes reading these essays like having a chat with her face-to-face. Each of the essays stands alone and tells something about her -- about her aculturation to the U.S when she arrived from the D.R. as a young girl, about her integrating her D.R. roots with the U.S. culture in which she came of age into the woman she is, about her biligualism and each language represents something different to her. Her lyrical accounts of langu ...more
Cat Chiappa
Jan 28, 2011 rated it liked it
This was a very good book, but I only rated it three stars due to the fact that I read it in a short period of time. I think this is a book best enjoyed in small snippets over a longer period. It consists of many extremely well written essays separated into two sections. The first called Customs was the most enjoyable as it consisted of many stories from Julia's childhood. The second is Declarations and it is all about her writing, which while interesting got a little muddy for me...again largel ...more
Mar 17, 2014 rated it really liked it
This was our bookclub selection for March. I loved it. Alvarez allowed the reader to come along with her as she left the DR and discovered life in America. You feel as she and her sisters struggle with having come from a country of "means" to a country where their past means nothing. As the girls struggle to "fit" in, language becomes the "how" for Julia. She loves words. There are her ball and chain and her salvation. When you reach page 300 you truly understand WHY we have writers, and the pro ...more
Feb 01, 2011 rated it liked it
I liked this because I practically have a crush on Ms. Alvarez. Getting to know her story after reading it woven into into her fiction was interesting. Not sure if a non-fan would enjoy this, a Q&A about herself and her writing. It answered questions I had, like why she needs a translator for her Spanish editions and how much of some of her books are factual. I love the way she puts things and the ideas she explores. She gave me insights into the identity conflicts my immigrant husband faces ...more
Mar 22, 2012 rated it liked it
uneven collection, but then like any mix tape or just-dropped album, it's hard to make a cohesive whole or even rhythm out of little bits of this or that. this was the first time i read julia alvarez and all in all, i think she was ok. she sounds like a good, thoughtful person, and i do intend to read her book on the mirabel sisters, but otherwise, i think i'll move on.

i most enjoyed her stories about growing up ('grandfather's blessing', 'la gringuita') and being a writer. ('first muse', have
Feb 18, 2010 rated it really liked it
This book is a collection of essays about Julia Alvarez's experience growing up in the Dominican Republic and the United States as well as her life as a writer. As I read these essays I became more and more aware that Alvarez is also a poet, for her language and imagery was vivid and poetic, especially in describing her life in the Dominican Republic. And although some of the essays made me feel overwhelmed about the idea of writing, in the end I was left feeling inspired to try again to write.
Jul 07, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2008-2011
This title is a collection of essays by the famous Dominican-American writer. The first section deals with her identity as a Latina woman forced to assimilate into American culture, then reconciling herself to having a foot in both worlds. It made me want to speak Spanish all day and revisit Guatemala. The second section discussed her ideas about thought, the writing process and the eternal question: does writing matter? After writing this book, I can say that it does.
Aaminah Shakur
Feb 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I don't know where to start... So I will just say this is a beautiful book of essays on writing, the writer's life, process, storytelling, and a bit of memoir as well, by one of my favorite authors. It is... Beautifully written. Charming. Honest. Funny. And a little sad. And it is worth a second (perhaps more) read for sure.
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Julia Álvarez was born in New York City. Her parents moved back to the Dominican Republic when Álvarez was 3 months old and she was raised there until she was 10, when the family moved back to NYC.

She is currently writer-in-residence at Middlebury College and the owner of a coffee farm named Alta Gracia, near Jarabacoa in the mountains of the Dominican Republic. The farm hosts a school to teach l
More about Julia Alvarez...

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