There are two main characters in the short story “Snow,” by Julia Alvarez: Yolanda and her teacher, Sister Zoe. While not mentioned by name, there are also references to Yolanda’s mother, sisters and the other children in her class at school.
Set in the early 1960s, “Snow” is about a young girl named Yolanda who has recently immigrated to New York. The story primarily revolves around Sister Zoe teaching Yolanda how to speak English. In the beginning, Yolanda learns basic, everyday words such as “subway” and "laundromat.” However, as international tensions mount between the United States, Cuba and Russia, Yolanda and her classmates learn new words, such as “nuclear bomb,” “radioactive fallout” and “bomb shelter.” Yolanda and her classmates also begin practicing air raid drills.
One day during class, to illustrate the unfamiliar words, Sister Zoe draws a picture of what bombs being dropped from the sky would look like. Shortly after, Yolanda looks out the window and sees tiny particles dropping from the sky and immediately alerts Sister Zoe that she sees bombs. Sister Zoe, alarmed at first, calms immediately when she sees that it is simply snowing outside. Since this is the first time Yolanda has seen this weather, she is introduced to another English word, "snow."
“Snow” is a short story from Julia Alvarez’s acclaimed book, “How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents.” The story highlights the conflict that comes with living in a new culture and also shows how culture can be affected by outside forces. As Yolanda struggles to assimilate to American culture, Americans and immigrants alike are changed by the international conflict of the time period.