Julia Alvarez's novel "In the Name of Salome" weaves together the life and spirit of Salome Urena, and her daughter, Salome Camila, through a journey of political turbulence in the Dominican Republic. Throughout her life, Salome describes the chaotic days of rebellions and the calmness of transitory peace between political powers. The book trails the history of the Dominican Republic through Salome, voiced through her daughter Camila, whose history weaves together her mother's life and her country's unrest, finally bonding mother and daughter together posthumously.
The novel begins in the 1960s with Camila trying to tell her mother's story to her best friend Marion. Rich in imagery, the novel transcends time by linking the history of the Dominican Republic to the life of Salome. Utilizing a wide variety of themes, Alvarez takes readers through political rebellions, love and family, and reveals the pains and battles of education and self-identity. Alvarez crosses the bridge between the past and the present, incorporating poems and letters to tell the women's stories. In using this form of storytelling, Alvarez brings the women's different life experiences together, connect time, place, and characters into the politics of their country, the emotions of love, and the journey of self-discovery.
One of the themes of the novel is the difference of political struggles and war with the inner struggles and oppression Salome and Camila experience. The ongoing political struggles for power were not understood by the Salome, a mere girl at the time. She only knew that "one side was red and the other side was blue-color being the only way we could tell one side from the other, though both sides said that whatever they were doing, they were doing for la patria" (13), despite the fact that no one could explain la patria when she asks. Spending many days in a hole under the house, fearful of what was happening in their very own streets, is an experience that connects mother and daughter, both hiding within themselves, afraid to reveal who they are to the outside world. The weight of war forces most of the Dominicans to live in a destitute state, seeking ways out of their own motherland.
None are more demoralized than the women, who, like Salome, simply bow their heads and conceal themselves until they find their way out through writing, education, or self-discovery. By writing poetry under a pseudonym, Salome finds a way to share and release what she holds inside, until she feels comfortable enough to write under her own name. This is how she speaks to the people of her country, giving hope and building a firm groundwork to stand upon. Salome wins the respect of the people of the Dominican Republic by offering an opportunity, through her poetry, to actually attain freedom. In pursuing the dream of peace by stepping away from her boundaries as a woman, she takes the chance to educate young girls in reading and writing, offering a better path for...