Illinois State Library

Illinois Center for the Book

Individual Author Record

General Information

Name:  Julia Alvarez  

Pen Name: None

Genre: Fiction History Non-Fiction Poetry

Audience: Adult; Young Adult; Children;

Born: 1950 in New York City, NY

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Illinois Connection

Alvarez was an Assistant Professor in the English Department at the University of Illinois in Urbana from 1985 - 1988. While there, she taught beginning and advanced fiction and poetry workshops as well as courses on women's studies and minority/ethnic literature.

Biographical and Professional Information

Julia Alvarez is an author, a poet, novelist, and essayist. Born in New York, she spent the first ten years of her childhood in the Dominican Republic. A few years after moving back to the United States, Alvarez started attending Abbot Academy; graduating in 1967. From there, she attended Connecticut College from 1967 to 1969 and then transferred to Middlebury College, where she obtained her Bachelor of Arts degree, summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa in 1971. She then went on to Syracuse University where she received her master's in 1975.Alvarez then 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.Today, Alvarez is regarded as one of the most critically and commercially successful Latina writers of her time. She currently resides in Champlain Valley, Vermont.

Published Works

  • Return to Sender, 2009
  • Saving the World, 2006
  • In the Name of Salomé, 2000
  • ¡YO!, 1997
  • In The Time of the Butterflies, 1994
  • How the García Girls Lost Their Accents, 1991Poetry:
  • The Woman I Kept to Myself, 2004
  • Homecoming: New and Collected Poems, 1996
  • The Other Side/El Otro Lado, 1995Non-Fiction
  • A Wedding in Haiti: The Story of a Friendship, 2012
  • Once Upon A Quinceañera: Coming of Age in the USA, 2007
  • Something to Declare, 1998For Younger Readers:
  • Where Do They Go?, 2016
  • How Tía Lola Saved the Summer, 2011
  • How Tia Lola Ended Up Starting Over, 2011
  • How Tía Lola Learned to Teach, 2010
  • The Best Gift of All: The Legend of La Vieja Belén, 2008
  • A Gift of Gracias: The legend of Altagracia, 2005
  • Finding Miracles, 2004
  • Before We Were Free, 2002
  • How Tía Lola Came to Visit Stay, 2001
  • A Cafecito Story, 2001
  • The Secret Footprints, 2000

Selected Titles At Your Library

Return to sender /
ISBN: 0375851232. OCLC Number:

Alfred A. Knopf,. New York :. ©2009.

After his family hires migrant Mexican workers to help save their Vermont farm from foreclosure, eleven-year-old Tyler befriends the oldest daughter, but when he discovers they may not be in the country legally, he realizes that real friendship knows no borders.

Saving the world :
ISBN: 1565125584. OCLC Number:

Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill,. Chapel Hill, NC :. 2006.

"Alma Heubner's husband, Richard, goes to the Dominican Republic to help eradicate AIDS, while Alma, a bestselling Latina writer, stays at home in Vermont to work on a story about a real, ill-fated 19th-century expedition chaperoned by Doña Isabel Sendales y Gómez, the spinster director of a Spanish orphanage who agrees to vaccinate 20 of her charges with cowpox and bring them from Spain to Central America to prevent future smallpox epidemics. While the leader of the anti-smallpox expedition, Dr. Francisco Balmis, and Richard see their missions collapse in defeat, Doña Isabel and Alma surmount their personal depressions to find inner strength."--Publishers Weekly.

In the name of Salomé :
ISBN: 0452282438. OCLC Number:

Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill,. Chapel Hill, N.C. :. 2000.

A sweeping novel spanning 100 years & the lives of a heroic mother & daughter; inspired by real events. Annotation. In her most ambitious work since In the Time of Butterflies, Julia Alvarez tells the story of a woman whose poetry inspired one Caribbean revolution and of her daughter whose dedication to teaching strengthened another. Camila Henriquez Urena is about to retire from her longtime job teaching Spanish at Vassar College. Only now as she sorts through family papers does she begin to know the woman behind the legend of her mother, the revered Salome Urena, who died when Camila was three. In stark contrast to Salome, who became the Dominican Republic's national poet at the age of seventeen, Camila has spent most of her life trying not to offend anybody. Her mother dedicated her life to educating young women to give them voice in their turbulent new nation; Camila has spent her life quietly and anonymously teaching the Spanish pluperfect to upper-class American girls with no notion of revolution, no knowledge of Salome Urena. Now, in 1960, Camila must choose a final destination for herself. Where will she spend the rest of her days? News of the revolution in Cuba mirrors her own internal upheaval. In the process of deciding her future, Camila uncovers the truth of her mother's tragic personal life and, finally, finds a place for her own passion and commitment. Julia Alvarez has won a large and devoted audience by brilliantly illuminating the history of modern Caribbean America through the personal stories of its people. As a Latina, as a poet and novelist, and as a university professor, Julia Alvarez brings her own experience to this exquisite story.

Yo! /
ISBN: 0452279186. OCLC Number:

Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill,. Chapel Hill, N.C. :. 1997.

The American odyssey of Yo, a Dominican woman writer whose family arrived in the U.S. as refugees from a dictatorship. The novel follows her youth, with its energy and optimism, and the setbacks as she grows older, including two divorces.

In the time of the butterflies /
ISBN: 1565129768. OCLC Number:

Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill,. Chapel Hill, N.C. :. 1994.

The life and death of three revolutionary sisters in the Dominican Republic, told by a surviving fourth. One by one the Mirabal Sisters, as they were known, join the opposition to the Trujillo dictatorship in the 1950s, suffering imprisonment and torture while their men watch powerless. They are released, then one night their jeep is ambushed. A story based on real events by the author of How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents.

How the García girls lost their accents /
ISBN: 156512975X. OCLC Number:

Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill,. Chapel Hill, N.C. :. 1991.

In the 1960s, political tension forces the García family away from Santo Domingo and towards the Bronx. The sisters all hit their strides in America, adapting and thriving despite cultural differences, language barriers, and prejudice. But Mami and Papi are more traditional, and they have far more difficulty adjusting to their new country. Making matters worse, the girls--frequently embarrassed by their parents--find ways to rebel against them.

The woman I kept to myself :
ISBN: 1616200723. OCLC Number:

Algonquin Books Of Chapel Hill,. Chapel Hill :. 2011,

Seventy-five autobiographical poems by Dominican American author Julia Alvarez.

Homecoming :
ISBN: 0452275679. OCLC Number:

. .

Long before her award-winning novel, How the García Girls Lost Their Accents, and In the Time of the Butterflies, Julia Alvarez was writing poetry that gave a distinctive voice to the Latina woman - and helped give to American letters a vibrant new literary form. Homecoming was Alvarez's first published collection of poetry, a work of great subtlety and power in which the young poet returned to her old-world childhood in the Dominican Republic. Now this revised and expanded edition adds thirteen new poems. These more recent writings are still deeply autobiographical in nature, but written with the edgier, more knowing tone of a woman who has seen, and survived, more of life. Wonderfully lucid and engaging, toned with deep emotionality and a wry observation of life, the poems of Julia Alvarez stand next to her fiction to both delight us and give us lessons in living and loving.

The other side =
ISBN: 0452273412. OCLC Number:

Dutton,. New York :. ©1995.

A collection of poems written in English by a Hispanic American woman, reflecting her experiences as a young girl and as a middle-aged woman. The collection includes the twenty-one-part title poem El Otro Lado which deals with the poet's return to her native Dominican Republic.

A wedding in Haiti :
ISBN: 1616202807. OCLC Number:

Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill,. Chapel Hill, N.C. :. 2012.

The popular author talks about three of her most personal relationships--with her parents, with her husband, and with a young Haitian boy known as Piti.

Once upon a quinceañera :
ISBN: 0452288304. OCLC Number:

. .

The quinceañera, the fifteenth birthday celebration for a Latina girl, is quickly becoming an American event. This legendary party is a sight to behold: lavish ball gowns, extravagant catered meals, DJs, limousines, and multi-tiered cakes. The must-haves for a "quince" are becoming as numerous and costly as a prom or wedding. And yet, this elaborate ritual also hearkens back to traditions from native countries and communities, offering young Latinas a chance to connect with their heritage. Writer Alvarez explores this celebration that brings a Latina girl into womanhood, attending the quince of a young woman in Queens, and weaving in interviews with other quince girls, her own memories of coming of age as an immigrant, and the history of the custom itself. The result is an enlightening, accessible, and entertaining portrait of contemporary Latino culture.--From publisher description.

Something to declare :
ISBN: 161620558X. OCLC Number:

Algonquin Of Chapel Hill,. Chapel Hill, N.C. :. 2014.

Where do they go? /
ISBN: 1609806700. OCLC Number:

. .

Children wonder what happens to their loved ones after death.

How Tía Lola saved the summer /
ISBN: 0375866876. OCLC Number:

. .

When three girls and their father visit for a week in the summer, it takes Tía Lola to make Miguel forget his unhappiness at the absence of any boys and embrace the adventures that ensue.

How Tía Lola ended up starting over /
ISBN: 0375873201. OCLC Number:

Alfred A. Knopf,. New York :. ©2011.

Worried that Papa Espada cannot find a job, Tía Lola, Juanita, Miguel, and the "Sword" sisters decide to start a bed and breakfast at Colonel Charlebois's Vermont house.

How Tía Lola learned to teach /
ISBN: 0375857923. OCLC Number:

Alfred A. Knopf,. New York :. 2010.

Juanita and Miguel's great aunt, Tía Lola, comes from the Dominican Republic to help take care of them after their parents divorce, and soon she is so involved in their small Vermont community that when her visa expires, the whole town turns out to support her.

El mejor regalo del mundo :
ISBN: 1622631498. OCLC Number:

. .

Retellling of the Dominican folk character, La Vieja Belén, who leaves gifts for poor children a week after the Feast of the Epiphany.

A gift of gracias :
ISBN: 0375824251. OCLC Number:

Knopf :. New York :. ©2005.

Maria's family is almost forced to leave their farm on the new island colony, until a mysterious lady appears in Maria's dream.

Finding miracles /
ISBN: 0553494066. OCLC Number:

Laurel-Leaf Books,. New York :. 2006, ©2004.

Fifteen-year-old Milly Kaufman is an average American teenager until Pablo, a new student at her school, inspires her to search for her birth family in his native country.

Before we were free /
ISBN: 044023784X. OCLC Number:

A. Knopf,. New York :. ©2002.

In the early 1960s in the Dominican Republic, twelve-year-old Anita learns that her family is involved in the underground movement to end the bloody rule of the dictator, General Trujillo.

How Tía Lola came to visit stay /
ISBN: 0440418704. OCLC Number:

. .

Although ten-year-old Miguel is at first embarrassed by his colorful aunt, Tía Lola, when she comes to Vermont from the Dominican Republic to stay with his mother, his sister, and him after his parents' divorce, he learns to love her. Moving to Vermont after his parents split, Miguel has plenty to worry about. Tia Lola, his quirky, "carismatica, " and maybe magical aunt makes his life even more unpredictable when she arrives from the Dominican Republic to help out his Mami.

A cafecito story /
ISBN: 1931498067. OCLC Number:

. .

A man on holiday in the Dominican Republic learns about how coffee is grown and traded, which inspires him to live more attuned to the land.

The secret footprints /
ISBN: 0440417473. OCLC Number:

Dell Dragonfly Books,. New York :. 2002, ©2000.

A story based on Dominican folklore, about the ciguapas, a tribe of beautiful underwater people whose feet are attached backwards, with their toes pointing in the direction from which they have come.


Return to Sender

  • Pura Belpre Award, American Library Association, 2010
  • Americas Award for Children and Young Adult's Literature, National Consortium for Latin American Studies Program, 2010
  • Finalist, YALSA Award, American Library Association
  • In the Time of Butterflies

  • The Big Read

    Book Selection, National Endowment for the Arts

  • One of 21 Classics for the 21st Century, New York Libraries
  • How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents

  • PEN Oakland/Josephine Miles Literary Award, 1991
  • One of 21 Classics for the 21st Century, New York Libraries
  • The Big Read

    Book Selection, National Endowment for the Arts, 2010


  • Notable Book, American Library Association, 1998
  • One Upon a Quinceaera

  • Finalist, National Book Critics Circle Award, 2008
  • How Ta Lola Came to Visit Stay

  • Little Read Book Selection, Lenoir-Rhyne University, Hickory, North Carolina, 2010
  • How Ta Lola Learned to Teach

  • Back-to-School Reading list, The Horn Book, 2013
  • Best of the Best List, Chicago Public Library, 2010
  • Winter 2011 Kids' Indie Next List, IndieBound
  • Before We Were Free

  • Best Book, American Library Association, 2002
  • Pura Belpre Award, American Library Association, 2002
  • The Best Gift of All

  • Honorable Mention, Amricas Award for Children's and Young Adult Literature, 2009

    Body of Work

    Speaking Engagements

    Speaking Engagement Availability (Yes)