Julia Álvarez

Julia Álvarez

Dominican-U.S. writer whose work covers novels, poetry and essays. She has also written several children’s books. Her work has earned her recognition as one of the leading Dominican writers about the stories of immigrants to the United States from her Caribbean nation. As a result, she is considered a writer who leans more toward the foreign than to the Dominican, but her work transcends geographic limits.

Álvarez was born in New York City on March 27, 1950. When she was three months old, her family moved to the Dominican Republic. After living on the island for ten years, they moved to the United States permanently because of political problems her father was involved in. She began her university studies at Connecticut College and finished at Middlebury College, where she earned a degree in literature in 1971. Four years later, in 1975, she finished her master’s degree in creative writing at Syracuse University.

In addition to writing, Álvarez has dedicated part of her life to teaching, both at the secondary and the university levels. She has been a writer in residence at several prestigious universities in the United States, including George Washington University.

As a writer of the diaspora, Álvarez has always written in English. Her first novel, How the Garcia Girls Lost their Accent, catapulted her onto the literary stage in the United States. The book, published in 1991, was declared the best book of the year by The New York Times Book Review and by Library Journal.

Her second novel, In The Time of the Butterflies, gained a similar reception. The book, published three years after her previous novel, was nominated as best book of the year by National Book Critics and was selected as best book of 1994 by the American Library Association. It was made into a movie, of the same title, that received a positive reception.

Julia Álvarez describes herself as a Dominican-U.S. writer. Her work, as a whole, depicts ordinary women who, in most cases, are facing the impacts of exile, often self-imposed. Transculturation, a term coined by the father of Afro-Caribbean ethnology, Fernando Ortiz, is a good word for summing up, in part, her range of narratives.

Among her works are ¡Yo!, Before We Were Free and her latest novel, Saving the World. Consistent with her role as an educator, Álvarez has also written several children’s stories. Álvarez currently lives in Vermont in the United States, where she has worked for several years as an English professor at Middlebury College.


  • How the García Girls Lost Their Accent (1991)
  • In the Time of Butterflies (1994)
  • ¡Yo! (1997)
  • Something to Declare (1998)
  • In the Name of Salomé (2000)
  • A Cafecito Story (2001)
  • The Woman I Kept to Myself (2004)

Author: Christian Ibarra
Published: April 14, 2012.

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