Born in New York City in 1950, Julia Alvarez's parents returned to their native country, the Dominican Republic, shortly after her birth. Ten years later, the family was forced to flee to the United States because of her father’s involvement in an underground plot to overthrow the dictator, Trujillo. In the hardships of assimilating to the English language and American life, Alvarez found comfort in the world of stories, fostering a love for reading and writing.
Her first novel, How the García Girls Lost Their Accents, received considerable attention and won a PEN Oakland/Josephine Miles Award for excellence in multicultural literature. Her reading audience continued to grow with the publications of her novels: In the Time of the Butterflies, which was selected by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Library of Congress for its national Big Read program. A versatile artist, Alvarez has written seven books for children, including The Tía Lola Stories and Where Do They Go?; as well as novels for young adults, such as Before We Were Free and Return to Sender. She has also written nonfiction books, including Once Upon A Quinceañera: Coming of Age in the USA and A Wedding in Haiti; as well as five collections of poetry including, The Woman I Kept to Myself. Afterlife, a new novel, and Already a Butterfly, a new picture book for children, will be published in 2020.
Alvarez has won numerous awards for her work, including the Pura Belpré and Américas Awards for her books for young readers, the Hispanic Heritage Award in Literature, and the F. Scott Fitzgerald Award for Outstanding Achievement in American Literature. Most recently, she was awarded the National Medal of Arts by President Barack Obama.
Alvarez has taught English and creative writing at every grade level from elementary school to senior citizens' centers. She currently lives in Vermont, where she is writer in residence emeritus at Middlebury College.
She continues her work with young people through her many workshops and readings throughout the country as well as in the Dominican Republic, where she is on the advisory board of Mariposa Foundation, an organization which promotes education and training for young girls in order to break the cycle of generational poverty. She is also a founder of Border of Lights, a movement of Diaspora Dominican-Americans, Haitian-Americans, and supporters, working to foster peace and solidarity between two neighbor countries, traditionally in conflict, Haiti and the Dominican Republic.
photo © by Brandon Cruz González/El Vocero de Puerto Rico
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