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Julia Alvarez

Born: 1950 in New York City, NY
Pen Name: None

Connection to Illinois: 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.

Biography: 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.

  • """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
  • """¡YO!"""
  • -- Notable Book, American Library Association, 1998
  • """One Upon a Quinceañera"""
  • -- Finalist, National Book Critics Circle Award, 2008
  • """How Tia Lola Came to Visit Stay"""
  • -- Little Read Book Selection, Lenoir-Rhyne University, Hickory, North Carolina, 2010
  • """How Tia 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, Americas Award for Children's and Young Adult Literature, 2009
  • """Afterlife"""
  • -- Most-Anticipated Book of the Year - O, The Oprah Magazine, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Vogue, Bustle, BuzzFeed, Ms. Magazine, The Millions, The Huffington Post, PopSugar, The Lily, Goodreads, Library Journal, LitHub, and Electric Literature
  • -- Must Read Books List, O, The Oprah Magazine, The New York Times, Vogue, Bustle, BuzzFeed, The Millions, The Lily, Goodreads, Library Journal, LitHub, and Electric Journal, 2020
  • -- 24 New Books We Couldn't Put Down, BuzzFeed, 2020
  • -- Starred Review, Shelf Awareness, 2020
  • -- Starred Review, Library Journal, 2020
  • -- Starred Review, Kirkus, 2020
  • -- Starred Review, Booklist, 2020
  • -- Starred Review, BookPage, 2020
  • -- Spring 2020’s Best Books, The Philadelphia Inquirer

Primary Literary Genre(s): Fiction; History; Non-Fiction; Poetry

Primary Audience(s): Adult readers; Young adult readers


Selected Titles

A cafecito story /
ISBN: 1931498067 OCLC: 49355878

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.

A gift of gracias :
ISBN: 0375824251 OCLC: 56955975

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.

A wedding in Haiti :
ISBN: 9781616201302 OCLC: 753634660

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

In this book the author talks about three of her most personal relationships, with her parents, with her husband, and with a young Haitian boy known as Piti. A teenager when she and her husband, Bill, first met him in 2001, Piti crossed the border into the Dominican Republic to find work. Impressed by his courage, charmed by his smile, the author has over the years come to think of him as a son, even promising to be at his wedding someday. When Piti calls in 2009, her promise is tested. To the author, much admired for her ability to lead readers deep inside her native Dominican culture, Haiti is like a sister I've never gotten to know. Here she takes us on a journey into experiences that challenge our way of thinking about history and how it can be reimagined when people from two countries, traditional enemies and strangers, become friends. We follow her across the border into Haiti, once the richest of all the French colonies and now teeters on the edge of the abyss, first for the celebration of a wedding and a year later to find Piti's loved ones in the devastation of the earthquake. A strong message is packed inside this story, this time about the nature of poverty and of wealth, of human love and of human frailty, of history and of the way we live now.

Afterlife :
ISBN: 1643750259 OCLC: 1105247946

"A literature professor tries to rediscover who she is after the sudden death of her husband, even as a series of family and political jolts force her to ask what we owe those in crisis in our families, biological or otherwise"--

Before we were free /
ISBN: 044023784X OCLC: 48429165

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.

Finding miracles /
ISBN: 0553494066 OCLC: 68964739

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.

Homecoming :
ISBN: 0452275679 OCLC: 33245219

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.

How the García girls lost their accents /
ISBN: 156512975X OCLC: 22450948

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.

How Tía Lola came to visit stay /
ISBN: 0440418704 OCLC: 50587198

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.

How Tía Lola ended up starting over
ISBN: 9780375969140 OCLC: 694394307

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: 9780375895845 OCLC: 502029816

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.

How T́́ía Lola saved the summer
ISBN: 9780375897665 OCLC: 650019280

Alfred A. Knopf, New York : 2011.

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

In the name of Salomé :
ISBN: 0452282438 OCLC: 43526884

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.

In the time of the butterflies /
ISBN: 1565129768 OCLC: 30319222

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.

Once upon a quinceanera :
ISBN: 9781101213407 OCLC: 883294585

Plume, New York : 2014.

Finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, a phenomenal, indispensable (USA Today) exploration of the Latina sweet fifteen celebration, by the bestselling author of How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents and In the Time of Butterflies The quinceaNera, a celebration of a Latina girl's fifteenth birthday, has become a uniquely American trend. This lavish party with ball gowns, multi-tiered cakes, limousines, and extravagant meals is often as costly as a prom or a wedding. But many Latina girls feel entitled to this rite of passage, marking a girl's entrance into womanhood, and expect no expense to be spared, even in working-class families. Acclaimed author Julia Alvarez explores the history and cultural significance of the quince in the United States, and the consequences of treating teens like princesses. Through her observations of a quince in Queens, interviews with other quince girls, and the memories of her own experience as a young immigrant, Alvarez presents a thoughtful and entertaining portrait of a rapidly growing multicultural phenomenon, and passionately emphasizes the importance of celebrating Latina womanhood.

Power of experience :
ISBN: 1402748876 OCLC: 173092317

Sterling, New York : ©2007.

What is the value of a life deeply lived? Can fragments from the past help you navigate the future? What good is wisdom in a world bewitched by ephemera? Some of our best writers over 50 tackle these and other questions in this honest, hard-hitting collection about the search for meaning in the second half of life. In moving works of self-discovery, they illuminate the fine art of growing up and the power of experience to transform your life--Publisher website (May 2008).

Return to sender
ISBN: 9780375851230 OCLC: 226357648

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: 61362219

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.

Something to declare :
ISBN: 161620558X OCLC: 893017588

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

The Best Gift of All: The Legend of La Vieja Belen Bilingual Edition
ISBN: 1622631498 OCLC: 244764516

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

The other side =
ISBN: 0525939229 OCLC: 31605612

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.

The secret footprints /
ISBN: 0440417473 OCLC: 50952978

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.

The woman I kept to myself :
ISBN: 1616200723 OCLC: 698912202

Algonquin Books Of Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill : 2011,

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

Where do they go? /
ISBN: 1609806700 OCLC: 965544604

Children wonder what happens to their loved ones after death.

Yo! /
ISBN: 0452279186 OCLC: 34798218

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.