Natoinal Best Seller. A novel about a teenage girl in the Dominican Republic.
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It's 1960, and 65-year-old Camila Ureña decides to join the New World. Castro's new world, that is, which she has been following on the news with a heated excitement she hasn't felt for years. Forced into early retirement from her 20-year post as a Spanish teacher among the perky white girls of Vassar College, Camila faces a choice: whether to move to Florida and live down the block from her best friend or to fly over Florida and into Havana where her brothers live--and thereby land in a place of upheaval and hungry ghosts. The hungriest ghost of all is Camila's mother, Salomé Ureña, whose poems became inspirational anthems for a short-lived revolution in the late-19th-century Dominican Republic.
Based in fact, In the Name of Salomé alternates between Camila's story and her mother's. Camila's chapters are written in the third person, Salomé's in the first. By calling Camila "she," Alvarez alienates her within the text--as if in her attic at Vassar she is floating outside herself in an America that does not belong to her. In contrast, Salomé's chapters vibrate with life and tears and melodrama. Through the alternating voices, which Alvarez handles masterfully, the reader comes to grasp Camila's longing for the color and music of her mother's lost world--how the meek daughter wishes "she" could become the "I" of her mother's revolutionary and passionate life as a poet, which began under a pseudonym, Herminia, in a local political paper:
Each time there was a new poem by Herminia in the paper, Mamá would close the front shutters of the house and read it in a whisper to the rest of us. She was delighted with the brave Herminia. I felt guilty keeping this secret from her, but I knew if I told her, all her joy would turn to worry.Yet for Salomé, her pseudonym allows her to become the voice of a country, "and with every link she cracked open for la patria, she was also setting me free." --Emily White From the Inside Flap:
This novel tells the story of two women--mother and daughter--and how they confronted the machismo in two Caribbean revolutions. Set in the politically chaotic Dominican Republic of the late nineteenth century, on the campuses of three American universities, and in the idealistic Communist Cuba of the 1960s, this story is based on the real lives of a volatile, opinionated, romantic, intrigue-loving family.
Salome Urena's fervent patriotic poems turned her--at seventeen--into the Dominican Republic's national icon. In stark contrast, her daughter, Camila, shy and self-effacing, bent to accommodate the demands of her father and brothers (a president, an ambassador, an international literary star)--trying to hide her preference for women, to stay out of the spotlight, and to offend no one. Whereas her mother dedicated her brief life to educating Dominican girls to serve their turbulent new nation, Camila spent her career anonymously explaining the Spanish pluperfect to upper-class American girls.
We meet Camila in 1960 when she is sixty-five years old and about to retire from Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York. This is Camila's last chance to choose a final destiny for herself. In the process of deciding, Camila uncovers first the reality of her mother's tragic personal life and, finally, where she must place her own kind of passion and commitment.
Latina poet and university professor Alvarez brings many common bonds to this novel based on "la musa de la patra," Salome Urena, and her daughter, Profesora Camila Henriquez-Urena. Not the least of these is an undaunted female stance from inside a powerful Caribbean family.
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