Book Review Reflections, book reviews

How Tia Lola Came to (Visit) Stay by Julia Alvarez #BookReviewReflection

What is a Book Review reflection?

It is a book review that also includes part of my life and how the book reflected who I am, it won’t be overly detailed in plot, but will help you think and understand as to why books like these are important. Many people claim some books exist for diversity’s sake, I want to show you one review at a time, why that is simply not true.

Book CW: Micro-agressions

Today, I bring you a very special review of a book that just made me reminisce of Dominican Republic the whole time I was reading it. I’m new to this whole, seeing myself represented in books thing, and it is super exciting.

This book tells the story of two young kids named Juanita and Miguel and their Aunt Lola who comes to visit from the Dominican Republic in order to help mom out around the house because she is recently divorced and doesn’t feel comfortable leaving the kids alone. While the story itself takes place in Vermont, the Dominican Island can not be missed and that is what I loved about it, the nuance. The traditional foods, the discomfort, the feeling of loss, of not belonging, are real.

Tia Lola is everything I was afraid people would see my family was when I first moved to the United States. She was loud, colorful, spoke mostly Spanish, and did things in a very different manner. Like Miguel, when I first moved to the U.S, it’s not that I was embarrassed about being Puertorican/Dominican but I didn’t want to show it either. I wanted to blend in. It’s messy I know, but I was in a new mostly white high school (like Miguel) and even though I spoke fluent English I felt like the true Americans would hear my Latinidad in my voice. Miguel explores that at the beginning of the book, how he’s never had to confront his Latinx heritage before because his mom while Dominican, had grown up mostly in the US and neither Miguel nor Juanita spoke Spanish. His only marker was his brown skin. However, that all changes when Tia Lola arrives, she is everything he is afraid of, and he is terrified his friends will find out. That was me, I wasn’t embarrassed by my mother or my culture but the fear was there.

What follows is a beautiful Arc of growth, that I also followed as a child, the path where you learn to be proud of who you are. My mother spoke a bit of English when we first arrived and I had to grow to not flinch when I heard her speak Spanish around my school friends because you know what, she speaks two languages and that is pretty damn cool. I had to learn that I couldn’t use straight hair to hide from who I really was. My hair was rambunctiously curly and to suppress it was like suppressing myself and my mom noticed. I was two people, I loved myself with straight hair and loathed everything about me when it was curly. Tia Lola like my mom taught Miguel and Juanita how to grow, in their culture, in themselves, and in their language.

Miguel learns to accept that who he and who Tia Lola is, is special. That nobody will love him the way our Latinx families love, That no one will tell him legends of our country like Tia Lola does, that his friends will never get to experience who he really is if he doesn’t see it himself first. Accepting Tia Lola as a whole, meant accepting that he didn’t know where he belonged but that his culture and heritage felt like home. It took me 23 years to get to that conclusion, to hold my flags like they are a part of my soul and to live my life unapologetically. To let my hair roam in the wind and let the sun style it. To speak Spanish around others and not watch over my shoulder.

This book is a journey, as much as it was a real-life journey for me. I am glad this is a middle-grade book because Miguel was 10. If more children out there read books like these and realize they belong sooner, a lot of heartaches can be avoided. This is why these stories matter, why representation matters, because all stories, are someone’s story out there.

I hope you enjoyed this one! see you soon:)

3 thoughts on “How Tia Lola Came to (Visit) Stay by Julia Alvarez #BookReviewReflection”

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