Julia Alvarez Biography & Facts
Julia Alvarez (born March 27, 1950) is a Dominican-American New Formalist poet, novelist, and essayist. She rose to prominence with the novels How the García Girls Lost Their Accents (1991), In the Time of the Butterflies (1994), and Yo! (1997). Her publications as a poet include Homecoming (1984) and The Woman I Kept to Myself (2004), and as an essayist the autobiographical compilation Something to Declare (1998). Many literary critics regard her to be one of the most significant Latina writers and she has achieved critical and commercial success on an international scale.
Julia Alvarez has also written several books for younger readers. Her first picture book for children was "The Secret Footprints" published in 2002. Alvarez has gone on to write several other books for young readers, including the "Tía Lola" book series.Born in New York, she spent the first ten years of her childhood in the Dominican Republic, until her father's involvement in a political rebellion forced her family to flee the country. Many of Alvarez's works are influenced by her experiences as a Dominican-American, and focus heavily on issues of immigration, assimilation, and identity. She is known for works that examine cultural expectations of women both in the Dominican Republic and the United States, and for rigorous investigations of cultural stereotypes. In recent years, Alvarez has expanded her subject matter with works such as 'In the Name of Salomé (2000)', a novel with Cuban rather than solely Dominican characters and fictionalized versions of historical figures.
In addition to her successful writing career, Alvarez is the current writer-in-residence at Middlebury College.
Early life and education
Julia Alvarez was born in 1950 in New York City. When she was three months old, her family moved back to the Dominican Republic, where they lived for the next ten years. She attended the Carol Morgan School. She grew up with her extended family in sufficient comfort to enjoy the services of maids. Critic Silvio Sirias believes that Dominicans value a talent for story-telling; Alvarez developed this talent early and was "often called upon to entertain guests". In 1960, the family was forced to flee to the United States after her father participated in a failed plot to overthrow the island's military dictator, Rafael Trujillo, circumstances which would later be revisited in her writing: her novel How the García Girls Lost Their Accents, for example, portrays a family that is forced to leave the Dominican Republic in similar circumstances, and in her poem, "Exile", she describes "the night we fled the country" and calls the experience a "loss much larger than I understood".Alvarez's transition from the Dominican Republic to the United States was difficult; Sirias comments that she "lost almost everything: a homeland, a language, family connections, a way of understanding, and a warmth". She experienced alienation, homesickness, and prejudice in her new surroundings. In How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents, a character asserts that trying to raise "consciousness [in the Dominican Republic]... would be like trying for cathedral ceilings in a tunnel".As one of the few Latin American students in her Catholic school, Alvarez faced discrimination because of her heritage. This caused her to turn inward and led to her fascination with literature, which she called "a portable homeland". She was encouraged by many of her teachers to pursue writing, and from a young age, was certain that this was what she wanted to do with her life. At the age of 13, her parents sent her to Abbot Academy, a boarding school, because the local schools were not considered sufficient. As a result, her relationship with her parents suffered, and was further strained when every summer she returned to the Dominican Republic to "reinforce their identities not only as Dominicans but also as proper young lady". These intermittent exchanges between countries informed her cultural understanding, the basis of many of her works.After graduating from Abbot Academy in 1967, she attended Connecticut College from 1967 to 1969 (where she won the Benjamin T. Marshall Poetry Prize) and then transferred to Middlebury College, where she obtained her Bachelor of Arts degree, summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa (1971). She then received a master's degree from Syracuse University (1975).
After acquiring a master's degree in 1975, Alvarez took a position as a writer-in-residence for the Kentucky Arts Commission. She traveled throughout the state visiting elementary schools, high schools, colleges and communities, conducting writing workshops and giving readings. She attributes these years with providing her a deeper understanding of America and helping her realize her passion for teaching. After her work in Kentucky, she extended her educational endeavors to California, Delaware, North Carolina, Massachusetts, Washington D.C, and Illinois.Alvarez was a Visiting Assistant Professor of English for the University of Vermont, in Burlington, VT for a two-year appointment in creative writing, 1981–83. She taught fiction and poetry workshops, introductory and advanced (for upperclassmen and graduate students) as well as a course on fiction (lecture format, 45 students).In addition to writing, Alvarez holds the position of writer-in-residence at Middlebury College, where she teaches creative writing on a part-time basis. Alvarez currently resides in the Champlain Valley in Vermont. She has served as a panelist, consultant, and editor, as a judge for literary awards such as the PEN/Newman's Own First Amendment Award and the Casa de las Américas Prize, and also gives readings and lectures across the country. She and her partner, Bill Eichner, an ophthalmologist, created Alta Gracia, a farm-literacy center dedicated to the promotion of environmental sustainability and literacy and education worldwide. Alvarez and her husband purchased the farm in 1996 with the intent to promote cooperative and independent coffee-farming in the Dominican Republic. Alvarez is part of Border of Lights, an activist group that encourages positive relations between Haiti and the Dominican Republic.
Alvarez is regarded as one of the most critically and commercially successful Latina writers of her time. Her published works include five novels, a book of essays, three collections of poetry, four children's books, and two works of adolescent fiction.Among her first published works were collections of poetry; The Homecoming, published in 1984, was expanded and republished in 1996. Poetry was Alvarez's first form of creative writing and she explains that her love for poetry has to do with the fact that "a poem is very intimate, heart-to-heart". Her poetry celebrates nature and the detailed rituals of daily life, including domestic chores. Her poems portray stories of family life and are often told from the perspective of women. She questio.... Discover the Julia Alvarez popular books. Find the top 100 most popular Julia Alvarez books.