Monthly Archives: March 2008

Cafe Parlez for March: In the Time of the Butterflies

The group is gathering for our March discussion of Julia Alvarez’s book “In the Time of the Butterflies”.  We have flan, coconut cookies, and guacamole, along with our usual tea.  Jen is catching everyone up to date on next month’s selection.  MC is mentioning Edwidge Danticate’s book about Haiti, the other side of the island that the Dominican Republic is on. 

LS thinks the book is very well written and looked forward to reading it each time.  Jen was reminded of “The Poisonwood Bible”, where each sister takes turns narrating.  LR feels a real connection with these women and their courage and persistence.  The question was raised as to where was the US in dealing with Trujillo.  Since he wasn’t a Communist, the US was ready to support him, even though he was driving his country into the ground. 

Why was it so important for Minerva to go away to school?  She wants to be independent, unlike Patria, who is the caretaker.  

How does Maria Teresa’s diary save her in prison?  She can say things in her diary that she can’t say to her family, and the diary is her confidant, as her sisters are away.  Her diaries have to been hidden, as they will incriminate herself and any others involved in the underground.  Diaries fill in for some of the fabric of theif lives.  What does the woman visitor in the beginning do to move the plot?  She seems like an afterthought, like Alvarez needed something for the beginning.  Most feel it was confusing.  But some feel that the woman was a catalyst to get the story going. 

People believe that the Mirabel sisters were trying to make their country a better place for their children, and were ready to sacrifice being with their children for the cause.    They couldn’t swallow what was happening in their country, so used their wealth and position to make  a difference.  The women in the family had the strength and conviction, even though the men run the country and the families.  Even in the US, men controlled women.  Would the revolution have been run better if it was done by women? 

The party at Trujillo’s – El Jefe was slimy, a lecher.  But was the father any better?  His second family was not well supported, but they helped their half-sisters in prison, and the Mirabels sent them to school.  The father blamed the mother for his affair, he was just looking for a son.  ED thinks he was cowardly.  There is a good discussion on the perceived importance of boys in a family, even in our modern times. 

How does Dede feel about being the only Mirable left alive?  She feels guilty, but this is her martyrdom, to be the one to tell the story.  Plus raising all of the children and caring for the aging mother.  The guilt must be overwhelming, as shown by surviving veterans

Why does their story endure?  Because they were women, because they were sisters, because they fought for a cause.  International Violence Against Women Day is based on the lives of the Mirabel sisters.  They took great risks to get the word out about Trujillo’s dictatorship and to keep secret the names of the others involved in the underground. 

Everyone loved the book, and learned a lot about the Dominican Republic.  Join us on April 24 for our discussion of “Water for Elephants”.


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Staff changes

Our library assistant for children’s services, Therese Keegan, has resigned to pursue her teaching career.  We wish Therese good luck in the future.  We are currently looking for a replacement.

Library Page, Kristine Barrows, is also leaving, as of the end of April.  Kristine will be working full-time and starting school.  So, we are also looking for a page.  This is a great job for a high-school student that likes to read.  See Gail for an application.

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