In the book, El Otro Lado by Julia Alvarez, describes the author’s experience of leaving the dominican republic and moving to the united states. This is more than just her moving though, it’s about her transition through things like her culture, her behavior, her personality and her childhood into a world of emotions filled with insecurity, love, hurt.
Alvarez’s use of Spanish that is mixed into the English she writes her poems also describe stories of her life along with the struggle of emigrating to a new country and what it’s like living in a country that isn’t 1st world or most advanced, revealing feelings from situations that most immigrants face coming to the United States. Alvarez also reveals her own personal emotions of love and of her family, and how both came to be a battle of finding peace with one another.
This collection of poems represents the struggle of being an immigrant and the passion that is buried within the hurt and the struggles that come with growing up. Alvarez discusses her feeling of displacement and search for belonging, as her mother shames her into assimilating into American culture and forgetting her dominican roots. One of Alvarez’s poems, I size up la situacion, is a fairly good example of the fear of being an immigrant into a new country. Alvarez’s mother is telling her and her sister to stop being the people they are, to drop their culture that they grew up on and to quit it.
To tell someone to change the way they are, something they carried for so long is utterly dehumanizing. Society already inflicts enough expectations on how to act and how to be, which is already excruciating to follow in a new country where you have to relearn everything. It’s about the way that something so small and unimportant as trying to fit in can change everything about from the way you speak to who you are, the type of clothes you wear, the tongue you were raised to speak in; only to erase everything that you know.
The only thing that makes you true, to even be as drastic as to changing the way your skin looks and the way your hair is to only meet the standards of society, to be a role in a movie that has no ending and a tragic tale of finding self-acceptance in a world that won’t accept you. Being a young girl in society that gives so many roles as it is makes the world such a more difficult place to live in where you always have to act a certain way, and especially in these times being the 1950s, such a conservative and dramatic time period.
It has the effect of bringing shame and such a confusing time period for young girls , especially to banish her dominican culture and try to find a community in the bronx. It’s more that finding a place to belong in a new community it’s about finding a place to love yourself, and being constantly told it’s wrong is demoralizing and to simply try to be someone you’re not. It’s always been an issue that people face emigrating to a new country, it’s an issue we still face today. The only way for people to be accepted into this country, specifically this country, is to be exactly what they’re not.
As long as you’re not “a blond haired, blue eyed possibility,” you aren’t anyone but an immigrant, you are seen as a commoner, less than, scrubs. Immigrants are the least appreciated in this country, which is the most ironic thing considering that this country is only really made up of immigrants. Having blond hair and blue eyes doesn’t mean anything, because European settlers came from Europe, not America. The only real people that belong in america are the native indigenous people of the americas.
Yet, that’s what immigrants have to be to be accepted into a world where these traits are so valued, a common norm, as if the world revolved around them,to simply try to be “white” in a place that isn’t even white to begin with. The fear that runs in the blood of immigrants comes from the fear that they not only will be ridiculed but will be killed for being who they are. The tone an immigrant mother makes to warn her children that different is unacceptable, that your culture should be kept but not “overdone.
Your language is to be spoken but only in certain situations, and in front of other people, it will be seen as rude. It’s baffling to only hear that the people who only come here to be better people and find better opportunities are only dismissed as scum and no better than the rich privileged people we call the face of our country. Times have changed, The United States isn’t as racist, but that doesn’t make it any better if you’ve been keeping up with politics or what’s been going on the world ever since the beginning of time really.
The situation has only gradually gotten better, but can you find acceptance when society is crushing you to be who they think is right and depending on the area, what is supposed to be “right. ” While there is a privilege of living in such liberal areas there is their fair share of racism too. If you type in “immigrants killed in the US,” you won’t find the demographics of how many people have been killed who are “non-americans. ” No, you will find that the first thing that pops up is an article titled “Migrant deaths along Mexico,” not even IN the United States, just at the border of it.
If you change it to “immigrants killed in the us every year,” you’ll find the same thing. ” But if you type in “americans killed in the us every year,” now what will you find you may ask, and the answer is ; articled related to gun violence, the answer is “us military casualties,” the answer is so clear but the problem is just as ignored as a trigonometry problem. Nobody wants to solve it, and if one person does, you’ll listen and say “wow, that makes sense,” but nobody will remember it when they actually have to remember it.
The answer is clear and simple once explained but nobody wants to hear the solution because it’s “too much work,” it’s “so hard,” but they’ll take the F instead of going for a passing grade. The answe r is that america is so ignorant to do anything about immigration that immigrants or anyone who is related to immigrants have to pretend they are not for their own safety, because the united states has other priorities and refuses to do anything about it. She’ll have to listen to her mother if she wants to fit in, even though she knows it’s wrong there’s nothing she can really do about it but write.
Having a feeling of belonging in a place where nobody accepts you is what can drive you to conform to society in ways that may not be the best for anyone. Conformity can cause you to do things that you normally wouldn’t do with morals, like stealing. One of Alvarez’s poems talks about her shoplifting with a friend, and while she knew in her heart that it was wrong and could feel that other people were judging her for it, Alvarez went on and continued to do it. It’s amazing what conformity can do when you don’t want to feel left out, making you question your own morals and ignore your conscience.
Not only did she question her worth but she questioned what she was doing and was baffled by how so many people did nothing about her behavior, even though it was all bad. It was a surprising factor to her when she realized that bad things came with growing up and in her situation, shoplifting was overlooked . She didn’t care if they stereotyped her for who she was, she did it anyway. Youth is often seen as a rebellious and often romanticized for having a twisted and developing mindset that’s out of control. Youth can be such a beautiful and disgusting thing to experience, but something many can agree is that it’s one of the iggest impacts of your life, and while there could be studies to disprove it, one of the most memorable.
While there are so many poems to choose from, Hairbands is one of the most phenomenal from Alvarez’s work. It captures a raw and empowering feeling of possession, of fighting for what is theirs. In this poem, she discusses how her husband could take away something of hers that is so unimportant to him but is so valuable and irreplaceable to her. It’s about the feeling of something that is so priceless being robbed from every memory and every attachment you felt to it.
It’s often overlooked how important valuables are to people, and it was something that was especially ignored by her husband. The poem was surrounded by more than just a hairband that could had been taken away from her, it was about the right of being and how she identified her life in what she could call hers. To fall in love with something more than a person, but to fall in love with the memories you can not ever relive. It’s an entity so precious the forces of the universe can’t ever take away the feeling behind it, they can’t give you the sweet smile that will come to your face the minute you open up what is yours.
The second you feel the way the velvet reminds you of the moments that made you who you are, that long journey of what made you you is to only be given to someone who hasn’t lived it. Only because your husband says that your hair is short now, it won’t look good in it anymore, as an excuse to take your valuable. Claim back what is yours take what is rightfully your memories, the poetry you feel in the veins of your wrist as you caress every inch of what you felt each time you wore that headband. Your husband doesn’t understand it.
What is rightfully yours in a man’s world if he doesn’t enjoy it or if he doesn’t find a use to it, right? what purpose is any of this anymore if he clearly isn’t satisfied let alone will you ever be satisfied with yourself if you let someone take away your pride and self worth. No it is not just a headband , it’s not as simple as being something replaceable, it’s something incomparable. The way that even a piece of fabric or metal worn on your head can create so many feelings of belonging, something the author struggled to have on her own since it was taken away from her as a child. Women, are sentimental.
We bring stories with our possessions, memories with every touch of what we own, nowadays from your favorite shirt to your cell phone. It’s just like men who put so much sentiment into their favorite brand shoes, their book collections, the sports show they watch: t matters. We live in a norm where women are shamed for the things they like, the makeup they wear, how they express themselves, all turned into a stereotype. It’s the way that we are all told that we can be who we want but the minute we do we are ashamed, we are absolutely judged and to the point where we question ourselves and ask if it’s worth it.
We ask ourselves if we want to be put in a category, do we want to be judged for being expressive, or do we hush. Do we stay quiet for things we feel are important to discuss do we tell our mothers that a boy tried to take advantage of us because we didn’t want to go any further? Do we stay quiet and let that girl fawn over another girl’s boyfriend because we don’t want to be uncool, do we let people tell us it’s ok to be a little risky even though we feel it could bring consequences later on? No, suppose we’ll have to be quiet about it because we don’t want to seem like we are troublesome, or whining, or even worse; a bitch.
Guess that a lot of the time women really are seen as pessimistic, over exaggerating, i’m often told i’m overthinking a situation, but the second I am right and someone tells me i’m wrong I even doubt myself. It’s so common to be ignored for things so important to a woman and nobody listens to us simply because we’re women, see if hillary was as liberal as bernie I think we’d still find reasons to hate her because she “can’t make up her mind,” and get the joke that “she’ll have no control because she’ll change her mind about it.
Personally, haven’t had the chance to watch every democratic debate and see her responses but reading over what she stand for and how she presents herself, it seems like the biggest hope the United States will ever get of having a female president is Hillary. Now feminism is so important, but it isn’t taken seriously. In this country, it’s important and valued, but it isn’t to be shamed.