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A Review of Julia Alvarez’s Novel Snow

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The story, “Snow,” by Julia Alvarez is one of both terror and beauty. Alvarez incorporates a difficult topic into a beautiful story. It is about a young, immigrant girl named Yolanda that has just moved to New York with her family. She is wide-eyed experiencing America for the first time. Unfortunately, Yolanda soon picks up on enough English to learn that “holocaust was in the air”. She was learning about the Cuban missile crisis. This story is rich in history and perspective as Alvarez connects this story to her personal life, explains what is going on in the story, and relates easily to the reader.

Alvarez was born in New York City, but shortly after her birth moved to the Dominican Republic where her family and she lived for ten years. After these ten years, The Alvarez family moved back to New York City, which might as well have been brand new to Julia Alvarez due to her being a newborn when she left the country for the first time. In her story, Alvarez explains what it is like moving to a “new” place and the adjustments she experienced. She describes herself (Yolanda) as being the only immigrant in her class, where she received grandmother-like care from her teacher, Sister Zoe. Sister Zoe represents new beginnings for Yolanda. She was shown special care by being placed by the window, so she could learn quickly without interruptions. Shortly after Yolanda begins learning new words in English, like the word “snow”, she learns of the Cuban missile crisis. One day after Sister Zoe explained what a bomb looked like to the children, Yolanda saw “dots in the air like the ones sister Zoe had drawn”. She thought she had seen a bomb, but her spirits were lifted once Sister Zoe explained that she was not seeing a bomb. She was seeing snow, for the very first time. Sister Zoe then further explained to Yolanda, “Each flake was different, like a person, irreplaceable and beautiful”. In this, Alvarez is painting a beautiful picture of how she went through a tough time but came out on the other side stronger and better for it. She learned that even though bad things may be happening, you can still find beauty and joy in the small moments.

Without looking any deeper, the main part of the story that pops out is what America’s children went through during the Cuban missile crisis. Alvarez explains what children had to do in order to survive in the instance of an attack on New York City. She sets a very ominous tone with her diction, like when she describes the sisters of the Catholic school as, “hefty women in long black gowns and bonnets that made them look peculiar, like dolls in mourning”. As this line is in the beginning of the story, it seems that a darker tone is set for the story. The same feeling is evoked when she continues to say later on that, “At school, we had air-raid drills: an ominous bell would go off and we’d cover our heads with our coats, and imagine our hair falling out, the bones in our arms going soft”. It is rather disheartening to sit and think about the fact that this really happened to children. Perhaps one of Alvarez’s goals of this story is to evoke such a deep, sad emotion for these children and the future children that those in charge will think twice before doing this again. However, spirits are lifted when Yolanda is told she is seeing something beautiful (snow) rather than something threatening (bomb). The tone has changed at this end of the story from ominous to positive, furthering the point that good can be found in the bad if you allow yourself to see it.

All in all, this story connects with me on a deeper level. I know what it is like to be an outsider, just like Yolanda was. She was on her own at school, apart from the help from Sister Zoe. I too had a teacher check in on me and make sure I knew that I was loved when I was younger. As I grew older, I experienced some harsh things that no child should have to endure. However, someone taught me to find the good in the bad, as well. Once I learned to do that, the tone of my life changed from negative to positive, just like Yolanda. I found my light again, and I refuse for it to be put out anymore.

In conclusion, Julia Alvarez’s “Snow” is a deep and truly beautiful story. She includes rich content that can really pull at the heart strings. She connects this story to her personal life by basing Yolanda’s character on herself. Although, I think all of us can relate to Yolanda in a sense. Everyone has had a moment or two where they felt like their world was going to end, like the “bomb was dropping”. Sometimes, all we need is a simple reminder to stop and enjoy the beauty of a single moment, so that we may see that not all may be as bad as it seems. The best thing about the story that it is at least partly true. The Cuban missile crisis is a real event from American history, and there is no doubt that kids and adults alike had to learn how to prepare for air-raid drills, how to mentally prepare themselves that their life could end at any given moment. Alvarez uses this to play on the readers’ emotions, causing a truly amazing literary experience.

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A Review Of Julia Alvarez’s Novel Snow. (2021, November 10). GradesFixer. Retrieved November 28, 2021, from
“A Review Of Julia Alvarez’s Novel Snow.” GradesFixer, 10 Nov. 2021,
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