The twenty-four confessional, evocative essays that make up Something to Declare are divided into two parts. “Customs” includes Alvarez’s memories of her family’s life in the Dominican Republic, fleeing from Trujillo’s dictatorship, and arriving in America when she was ten years old. She examines the effects of exile–surviving the shock of New York City life; yearning to fit in; training her tongue (and her mind) to speak English; and watching the Miss America pageant for clues about American-style beauty. The second half, “Declarations,” celebrates her passion for words and the writing life. She lets us watch as she struggles with her art–searching for a subject for her next novel, confronting her characters, facing her family’s anger when she invades their privacy, reflecting on the writers who influenced her, and continually honing her craft.
The winner of the National Medal of Arts for her extraordinary storytelling, Julia Alvarez here offers essays that are an inspiring gift to readers and writers everywhere.