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LA ÑAPA

In Dominican Spanish la ñapa refers to "the little extra" added on at the end. Just when you thought you'd gotten all that you would get, along comes your ñapa, like a baker's dozen, with one more kiss, one more pastelito, one more mango at the mercado.

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a passage from
Finding Miracles

Here's a passage from my latest novel, Finding Miracles (read more about the novel with my Books for Young Readers of All Ages). Milly Kaufman, whose orphanage name was Milagros (which means "miracles," thus the title of the book), returns to her birth country sixteen years later. In this scene, Sor Arabia (Sor means "Sister") is giving her a tour of another orphanage. They are headed back to join the children in the big dining hall.

Finding Miracles: a Knopf Book for Young Readers by Julia Alvarez -- click for book summary
click for: Book Summary
We were heading back toward the front of the building when I finally got the courage to ask. "Sor Arabia, have you ever heard of an orphanage that used to be in the capital, called La Cuna de la Madre Dolorosa?"
Sor Arabia stopped in her tracks. "Of course I know La Cuna. I myself worked there many years."
"I've been trying to find the address. . ."
Sor Arabia shook her head sadly. "The building was burned to the ground by those criminales, God forgive them."
I'd been hoping the building still existed, that I could at least walk the halls of the first place that had been home. "Was it at all like this place?" I wondered aloud.
"No, no, no." Sor Arabia shook her head. "This is nothing to be compared. La Cuna was connected to our mother house, so it was like having the children in our own home. We had gardens with fruit trees and flowers and vegetales. Sor Corita had a green -- how do you say, green hands?"
"Thumb," I barely managed to get out. "Sister Corita, you said?"
"Sor Corita, yes, our mother superior. She died over ten years ago, God rest her soul."
My face fell. Sor Corita was dead! The orphanage burned to the ground! The little I had of a past here was gone! I felt like Gretel in the forest, looking back only to find that her trail of crumbs has disappeared.
Sor Arabia was watching me closely now. "How do you know of La Cuna and Sor Corita?"
I looked at her, wondering where to begin, and I think that's the first time she noticed my eyes. She did a little double take, as if it was dawning on her who I was, as if she already knew what I was starting to tell her. How I'd been adopted from La Cuna almost sixteen years ago by an American couple who had been in the country with the Peace Corps.
"¡Ay, Dios santo!" Sor Arabia said, raising her hands in wonder and praise. "Milagros!"
Was she remembering my name or was she saying it was a miracle that we had found each other? Either way, it seemed the same to me right then.
Julia Alvarez
From Finding Miracles, chapter 7.
Copyright © Julia Alvarez 2004-2017.
All rights reserved. No further duplication, downloading or
distribution permitted without written agreement of the author
(please contact my agent, Stuart Bernstein).

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