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The Woman I Kept to Myself

4.04  ·  Rating details ·  333 Ratings  ·  54 Reviews
The works of this award-winning poet and novelist are rich with the language and influences of two cultures: those of the Dominican Republic of her childhood and the America of her youth and adulthood. They have shaped her writing just as they have shaped her life. In these seventy-five autobiographical poems, Alvarez’s clear voice sings out in every line. Here, in the mid ...more
Hardcover, 176 pages
Published January 4th 2004 by A Shannon Ravenel Book
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Jun 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
Julia Alvarez has long been one of my favorite authors. Her autobiographical fiction has been a solid mixture of historical events and humor. Before Alvarez established herself as a novelist, she taught creative writing at various universities while penning poetry to keep her name current. While the poems in The Woman I Kept to Myself reappear in Alvarez' novels, the poetry came first and let readers into a window of her soul.

Alvarez moved from the Dominican Republic to New York with her family
Apr 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: poetry lovers, women
Recommended to Judy by: Jeanette
While reading free verse poetry
I often yawn and ho hum,
push it aside, missing the rhyme
and syncopation of traditional forms.
But as is often the case,
I find myself retracting,
rethinking what I knew so well!
I find I have the woman I kept to myself
who shyly relishes the glimpses
of Alvarez's life she freely shares.

Ah, this conversion from rhyme to free verse
isn't complete. Its of a selective sort.
I perceive my enjoyment of the newer style
is prejudiced to a few. Auden, Frost,
Alvarez, the Queen of Al
Apr 16, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2016
Poetry is not my genre, but I enjoyed this. I learned a lot about the author from her poems.

For example, she got in trouble in school a lot, when she went to her fourth grade class in bright red cowboy boots with tassels and asked to be excused from her homework. Later, when her and her siblings were labeled "spics" on the playground, her parents tried to make them feel better by saying that they were being asked to "speak up". Her mother used to threaten her and her sisters that they were going
Apr 15, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This collection of poetry is a great addition to the American immigrant experience shelf, in particular the Spanish-speaking, Latin American immigrant experience shelf, perhaps right next to Ana Menendez's "In Cuba I was a German Shepherd." It is a collection of carefully distilled observations and autobiographical confessions of growing up and being Dominican-American.

But do not be fooled, that's just a bit of what's in here. There is also a lot about being a writer, choosing words, working wo
Feb 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
Actual Rating 4.5 (rounded up, since I couldn't decide which way to go)

Alvarez' poetry is compelling and powerful. She opens with a sequence entitled "Seven Trees", seven poems in the same thirty-line arrangement as the rest of the book that capture some of the most important and affecting moments of her life, including her move to the United States by describing trees that were present or evoked in the moment. The final section, "Keeping Watch" is a series of meditations on awareness in various
Angie Fehl
Jan 28, 2016 rated it really liked it
It's hard for me to know where to start when reviewing a collection of poetry, but I guess I start with saying that I found these poems to be absolutely gorgeous, even when talking about not-so-pretty topics! As one might guess from the title, these poems cover the span of Alvarez's life up to the time of this collection being written. She speaks of the struggles of trying to find her space in the world as a Dominican child being transplanted to New York City. The poems speaking on this also giv ...more
Alisa Wilhelm
These poems are not dense or hard to understand. They are very easy to read before bed, like Billy Collins (she even refers to him in one poem)

All the poems are 3 stanzas of 10 lines with 10 syllables per line (I don't know the special term for this structure). Sometimese there are rhymes or clever turns of phrase within lines ("saucy salsa songs"), but it's not often. Alavarez is more concerned with the structre.

There are some poems about trees (meh), growing up as an immigrant in NYC (interes
Jan 26, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This book of poetry reads more like a novel. Alvarez is in her element writing poetry.
Why do I feel like such a back stabbing Chicana for not gushing over this memoir? I've sent a goal for myself during the 2017-2018 year of reading all works by, about, and for Chicanxs, Latinxs, Hispanics. I call it my own mini-Professional Development. And I want so desperately to love this collection of poetry. But after her "tree" collection, the memoir goes down hill into catalog of clichéd lines.

I think I value the diligence she takes to compose each line, but then at the exact same time t
Sayantani Dasgupta
Jul 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I don't often read poetry but when I do, it's only by the very best. Alvarez is one of those writers who can write beautifully (and win huge awards) in every genre. This particular collection contains 75 autobiographical poems and subjects include her Dominican-American identity, family, teaching, books, environment among others. Loved this book!
Feb 17, 2018 rated it liked it
I really enjoyed the first half of this poetry collection. Starting right from the beginning, the collection of poems titled "Seven Trees" was cohesive and full of metaphorical meaning. The second half of the book fell flat for me though. Overall, I like Alvarez's voice, and most of her poems would be useful to use in the classroom.
Amanda Leon
Feb 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
Really amazing poetry, totally recommend!
Leewana  Thomas
Dec 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Phenomenal 💜
Jan 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I absolutely loved this book of poetry. It is a in depth look at the life and love of this poet in a very palpable way.
May 06, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads, verse
but all my stories tell where I came from

I always forget how much I love poetry until I take the time to sit down and read it. I've heard of Alvarez from a friend who loves her novels, but I'm happy to have read her poetry first.

I'll need to read it again, of course. And again. But for now, some first impressions...

She uses the same structure for all of her poems: three stanzas, ten lines each.

She alludes to other poets, classic works, the Bible -- as a former lit. major, this makes me feel at h
Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
Mar 07, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
I've enjoyed Julia Alvarez as a novelist, but I hadn't been aware she was also a poet.

Julia's poetry reads more like prose, and its meaning is accessible even to those who aren't regular connoisseurs of poetry. This collection is a peek into her biography. She shares her frustrations and feelings of being stifled as an immigrant girl, and moves through her development as a woman and as a writer. I connect best with people through their sense of humor, so I enjoyed the way hers sneaks into her p
Cheryl Gatling
Julia Alvarez was a child in the Dominican Republic, then moved to New York. She writes of family traditions, of prejudice, of a rootless young adulthood with multiple unsuitable relationships, and eventually, a stable love life and career, with the pleasures of reading and writing.

Each poem is three stanzas of ten lines each. All are accessible. I think the poems about her youth are the most vivid. Among my favorites are the ones where she looks back on the trees that were present at different
Rebecca Grace
Nov 15, 2011 rated it really liked it
The Woman I Kept to Myself by Julia Alvarez is an intensely personal collection of poems, detailing Alvarez's childhood and adulthood. She hides nothing from her readers and appears to be using this collection to explore the different stages of her life, from being called a "Spic" as a child to asking her family and country if she has managed redeem herself from past transgressions.

As a poet, I found it particularly interesting that every single poem in this collection is thirty lines long, wit
Apr 14, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I won a copy of this book from Goodreads, and I thank you very much! Nothing is better for the average reader than a non-fiction book that reads like a novel except a collection of poetry that reads like prose, and this is just what that is. Alvarez makes her poems enjoyable for the average reader who may have a hard time appreciating poetry because of the difficulty of reading it. Not only that, but she manages to show us glimpses of her experiences growing up in two different cultures and endi ...more
Feb 02, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"He listened: the next day for English class I was assigned to Miss Ruth Stevenson who closed the classroom door and said,"Ladies, let's have ourselves a hell of a good time!" And we did, reading Austen, Dickinson, Eliot, Woolf, until we understood we'd come to train - not tame - the wild girls into the women who would run the world."

This is by far my favorite collection of Julia Alvarez so far.

These are great poems about growing about, about identity and family and finding ones self. There's a
Victor Vilchiz
May 23, 2015 rated it really liked it
I first read Julia Alvarez back in college for a Spanish Class in which we concentrated on Authors that live on the hyphen... Dominican-American, Mexican-American, Cuban-American. Back then I wondered if my professor had made up the whole thing about living on the hyphen... and while I am not an american born son of an immigrant I identified with many of the traits we discussed about these type of authors.

In this book I see that indeed Alvarez does seem to live on the hyphen as we said many yea
Apr 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry, read-2013
The Woman I Kept to Myself is an excellent book of poetry by Julia Alvarez, novelist and short story writer. Alvarez was born in the Dominican Republic and came to the United States when she was ten. Each of the 75 poems in this collection are written in the same format. Each poem consists of three ten-line stanzas. The poems are very accessible and a joy to read. I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves poetry and to those who want to learn to love poetry.
May C.
Jul 10, 2011 added it
I won a copy from Goodreads. I got lucky, thank you very much. Its an autobiographical style of poetry. Its rich in culture and in life. Its also relatable for me, the author and I share having lived our childhood years in a foreign country and the rest of our young adulthood here in the States. Really affected my world view. I still need to leaf through more pages so deem this review incomplete for now.
I found this book at a bookstore, and I read a whole bunch of it there. And then I used all my willpower and left it -- only to buy it on Amazon. Sometimes the internet is evil.

I really liked it. The poems are fresh, but Alvarez is a poets poet. She knows what she's doing. She writes about writing, about living two cultures, and womanhood, and trees, and my other favorite things. I didn't love every poem or agree with every idea, but I have a few new favorites - in a new hardback book.
Jan 03, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have very little experience reading poetry but reading Alvarez was delightful. I didn't much enjoy the first seven poems, collected as Seven Trees, but the second collection, The Woman I Kept to Myself was astounding; the third collection, while not as good as the second, was quite good. I'm excited to read some more poetry this year, especially because it's an area I'm not very familiar with.
Feb 22, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I've never read poetry so bland. Although here are some phrases I thought were good:

'Sorry, but I love / the way words say what can't be said in words' (102).

'I've been accused of overreacting / when I change countries and forget myself' (107).

'and oh-too-many women's magazines / (most of them missing pages of coupons)' (97).

And that's all.
Feb 09, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry
These poems by Julia Alvarez are autobiographical. They describe her youth and experience of racism and prejudice. They also describe her love of literature and interest in poetry, motherhood, writing, spirituality, etc. I read through slowly and with interest. I didn't feel wowed by anything, but I was drawn in.
Abigail Clark
Mar 13, 2013 rated it liked it
Having lived in Vermont, I thought I should read more of Julia Alvarez. Being from the state, I've read some pieces here in there in my anthologies for class.

But I enjoyed The Woman I Kept to Myself. I learned so much about her as a person and I know that this is something I struggle with in my own writing. It was inspiring and I highly recommend it!
May 04, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A beautiful collection that mirrors the themes of her novels as well as providing glimpses into her personal life. The poems are understated: simple and accessable, yet deeply touching and poignant. As a teacher I especially enjoyed her poem "Why I teach," as my students complain about the seemingly endless rewrites I request of them! I can't wait to share these poems with my students.
I received this as part of a Goodreads giveaway. I'm guessing that this is listed as a first read because it is a new edition or release of Alvarez's book. I'd wanted this book since I saw it listed under Alvarez's book last year. It's poetry - so it's something I will probably pick up every few days and read a few poems.
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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...