The bestselling author of How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents explores the phenomenon of the Latina "sweet fifteen" celebration.
The quinceanera, the fifteenth birthday celebration for a Latina girl, is quickly becoming an American event. This legendary party is a sight to behold: lavish ball gowns, extravagant catered meals, DJs, limousines, and multi-tiered cakes. The must haves for a "quince" are becoming as numerous and costly as a prom or wedding. And yet, this elaborate ritual also hearkens back to traditions from native countries and communities, offering young Latinas a chance to connect with their heritage.
In Once Upon a Quinceanera, Julia Alvarez explores this celebration that brings a Latina girl into womanhood. She attends the quince of a young woman named "Monica" who lives in Queens, and witnesses the commotion, confusion, and potential for disaster that comes with planning this important event. Alvarez also weaves in interviews with other quince girls, her own memories of coming of age as an immigrant, and the history of the custom itself--how it originated and what has changed as Latinas become accustomed to a supersize American culture. Once Upon a Quinceanera is an enlightening, accessible, and entertaining portrait of contemporary Latino culture as well as a critical look at the rituals of coming of age and the economic and social consequences of the quince parties. Julia Alvarez's dedicated fans will be eager to hear her thoughts on this topic. It is a great book for anyone interested in American youth today--parents, teachers, and teenagers themselves.
Skillfully blending memoir and social science, Alvarez (How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents) explores the quinceanera, the coming-of-age ceremony for Latinas turning 15. She spent a year researching and attending quince celebrations, finding out what rituals are favored and what they mean to the girls. She researched what the gowns and photo sessions cost. She interviewed people working in the quince industry, from party planners to cake bakers. After all, with more than 400,000 American Latinas turning 15 every year, and with the average quinceanera costing $5,000, the financial, if not the cultural importance of the quince should not be underestimated. Alvarez structures her book around one particular girl's ceremony, from the dreamy planning stages through the late hours of the actual, dizzying affair. By intercutting the party narrative with stories from her own youth, Alvarez reminds herself--and readers--that at some point we were all confused, histrionic adolescents. Both sympathetic and critical, she doesn't dismiss the event as a waste of hard-earned savings or as a mere display of daughters for the marriage market; nor does she endorse it as the essential cultural tradition connecting Latinas to their roots. Instead, Alvarez wants readers to focus on creating positive, meaningful rites of passage for the younger generation.
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-- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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August 02, 2007
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