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Works by
Julia Álvarez
(Poet, Writer)
[1950 - ]

Children
  • A Gift of Gracias: The Legend of Altagracia (2003) with Beatriz Vidal, Illustrator
    After their olive crop fails, Maria fears that her family will have to abandon their farm on the new island colony. Then, one night she dreams of a mysterious beautiful lady shrouded by trees with branches hung with hundreds of little suns. They are oranges like the ones Maria's parents once ate in their homeland, Valencia, Spain. That very day Maria and her family plant the seeds that soon yield a magnificent orange grove and save the farm. But who was the mysterious lady who appeared in her dream and will Maria ever find her again?

  • The Secret Footprints (2001) with Fabian Negrin, Illustrator
    The Dominican legend of the ciguapas, creatures who lived in underwater caves and whose feet were on backward so that humans couldn't follow their footprints, is reinvented by renowned author Julia Alvarez. Although the ciguapas fear humans, Guapa, a bold and brave ciguapa, can't help but be curious--especially about a boy she sees on the nights when she goes on the land to hunt for food. When she gets too close to his family and is discovered, she learns that some humans are kind. Even though she escapes unharmed and promises never to get too close to a human again, Guapa still sneaks over to the boy's house some evenings, where she finds a warm pastelito in the pocket of his jacket on the clothesline.  Ages 4-8

  • How Tia Lola Came to Stay (2001)
    Moving to Vermont after his parents split, Miguel has plenty to worry about! Tía Lola, his quirky, carismática, and maybe magical aunt makes his life even more unpredictable when she arrives from the Dominican Republic to help out his Mami. Like her stories for adults, Julia Alvarez’s first middle-grade book sparkles with magic as it illuminates a child’s experiences living in two cultures..  Ages 4 - 8

Essays
  • Something to Declare (1998)
    In her first book of nonfiction, Julia Alvarez takes us behind the scenes and shares the lessons she's learned on her way to becoming an internationally acclaimed novelist. In 1960, when Alvarez was ten years old, her family fled the Dominican Republic. Her father participated in a failed coup attempt against the dictator Rafael Trujillo, and exile to the United States was the only way to save his life. The family settled in New York City, where Dr. Alvarez set up a medical practice in the Bronx while his wife and four daughters set about the business of assimilation--a lifelong struggle. Loss of her native land, language, culture, and extended family formed the thematic basis for two of Julia Alvarez's three best-selling novels--HOW THE GARCIA GIRLS LOST THEIR ACCENTS and its sequel, YO! Her father's revolutionary ties inspired IN THE TIME OF THE BUTTERFLIES, her historical novel about one of Trujillo's most infamous atrocities. SOMETHING TO DECLARE offers an extraordinary collection of essays that deal with the two big issues of Alvarez's life--growing up with one foot in each culture and writing. The twelve essays that make up "Customs," the first of two parts, examine the specific effects of exile on this writer. The essays are personal--how her maternal grandfather passed along his love of the arts, how the nuclear family-in-exile snuggled down every year to watch the Miss America contest from the parental bed, how Julia feared her family might disown her upon publication of her first novel. In the second half, "Declarations," are twelve essays about writing that range from confession of Alvarez's means of supporting her writing habit to the gritty details of her actual process. Every one of these essays is warm, open, honest, and generous. SOMETHING TO DECLARE will appeal not only to her many fans, but to students of writing at all levels.

Fiction
  • Saving the World (2006)
    Latina novelist Alma Huebner is suffering from writer's block and is years past the completion date for yet another of her bestselling famly sagas. Her husband, Richard, works for a humanitarian organization dedicated to the health and prosperity of developing countries and wants her help on an extended AIDS assignment in the Dominican Republic. But Alma begs off joining him: the publisher is breathing down her neck. She promises to work hard and follow him a bit later.

    The truth is that Alma is seriously sidetracked by a story she has stumbled across. It's the story of a much earlier medical do-gooder, Spaniard Francisco Xavier Balmis, who in 1803 undertook to vaccinate the populations of Spain's American colonies against smallpox. To do this, he required live "cariers" of the vaccine.

    Of greater interest to Alma is Isabel Sendales y Gómez, director of La Casa de Expósitos, who was asked to select twenty-two orphan boys to be the vaccine carriers. She agreed— with the stipulation that she would accompany the boys on the proposed two-year voyage. Her strength and courage inspire Alma, who finds herself becoming obsessed with the details of Isabel's adventures.

    This resplendent novel-within-a-novel spins the disparate tales of two remarkable women, both of whom are swept along by machismo. In depicting their confrontation of the great scourges of their respective eras, Alvarez exposes the conflict between altruism and ambition.

  • A Cafecito Story (2001)
    A Cafecito Story is a story of love, coffee, birds and hope. It is a beautifully written eco-fable by best-selling author Julia Alvarez. Based on her and her husband's experiences trying to reclaim a small coffee farm in her native Dominican Republic, A Cafecito Story shows how the return to the traditional methods of shade-grown coffee can rehabilitate and rejuvenate the landscape and human culture, while at the same time preserving vital winter habitat for threatened songbirds. Not a political or environmental polemic, A Cafecito Story is instead a poetic, modern fable about human beings at their best. The challenge of producing coffee is a remarkable test of our ability to live more sustainably, caring for the land, growers, and consumers in an enlightened and just way. Written with Julia Alvarez's deft touch, this is a story that stimulates while it comforts, waking the mind and warming the soul like the first cup of morning coffee. Indeed, this story is best read with a strong cup of organic, shade-grown, fresh-brewed coffee.

  • In the Name of Salome (2000)
    "The story of my life starts with the story of my country... ." Thus begins Julia Alvarez's epic fictional account of the real-life Salomé Ureña-the "Emily Dickinson of the Dominican Republic." Born in the 1850s, in a time of intense political repression and turmoil, Salomé's fervent patriotic poems turned her-at seventeen-into a national icon. In the Name of Salomé is equally the story of Salomé's daughter, Camila, who grows up in exile, in the shadow of her mother's legend. Shy and self-effacing, Camila's life is in stark contrast to Salomé's. While her mother dedicated her brief life to educating Dominican girls to serve their struggling new nation, Camila spent her career explaining the Spanish pluperfect to upper-class American girls. But when, at age sixty-six, Camila makes a decision to leave her comfortable life behind and join Castro's revolution in Cuba, she begins a journey to make peace with her past-and bring the lives of two remarkable women full circle.

    Spanning more than a century, In the Name of Salomé proves Alvarez equally adept at capturing the sweep of history and the most intimate details of women's lives and hearts. It is Alvarez's richest and most inspiring novel to date.

  • !Yo! (1997)
    At last! A zesty, exuberant follow-up to the wildly popular How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents, full of Julia Alvarez's keen observations and tender affection for her characters. The Garcia Girls are back, most notably Yolanda, or Yo, who has grown up to be a writer. In the process, she has managed to get kicked out of college, break more than a few hearts, have her own heart broken many times, return for extended visits to the Dominican Republic her family fled when she was a child, and marry three times. She has also infuriated her entire family by publishing the intimate details of their lives as fiction. The injured parties--her mother, her sisters, the Dominican cousins, the maid's daughter, her teachers, her lover, want to tell their side of the story, and Yo! hands the microphone to them. Cousin Lucinda shrugs off Yo's characterization of her as a Latin American Barbie with a size three soul, saying, Looking at her in her late 30s, knocking around the world without a husband, house, or children, I think you are the haunted one who ended up living your life mostly on paper. This brilliant novel is a full and true exploration of a woman's soul, a meditation on the writing life, and a lyrical account of the immigrant's search for identity and a place in the world. Yo!'s bright colors, zesty dialogue, warm feeling, and genuine insight could only come from the palette of Julia Alvarez.

  • In the Time of the Butterflies (1994)

  • How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents (1994)

Non-fiction
  • Once Upon a Quinceanera: Coming of Age in the U.S.A. (2007)
    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.

    In Once Upon a Quinceañera, Julia Alvarez explores this celebration that brings a Latina girl into womanhood. She attends the quince of a young woman named “Monica” who lives in Queens, and witnesses the commotion, confusion, and potential for disaster that comes with planning this important event. Alvarez also weaves in interviews with other quince girls, her own memories of coming of age as an immigrant, and the history of the custom itself—how it originated and what has changed as Latinas become accustomed to a supersize American culture. Once Upon a Quinceañera is an enlightening, accessible, and entertaining portrait of contemporary Latino culture as well as a critical look at the rituals of coming of age and the economic and social consequences of the quince parties. Julia Alvarez’s dedicated fans will be eager to hear her thoughts on this topic. It is a great book for anyone interested in American youth today—parents, teachers, and teenagers themselves.

Poetry
  • The Woman I Kept to Myself (2004)
    The works of award-winning poet and novelist Julia Alvarez are rich with the language and influences of two cultures: the Dominican Republic of her childhood and the America of her youth and adulthood. They have shaped her writing just as they have shaped her life.

    Since her first celebrated novel, How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents, she has been articulating the passions and opinions of sisters and aunts, mothers and daughters, heroines and martyrs. In The Woman I Kept to Myself, seventy-five poems that weave together the narrative of a woman's inner life, it is Julia Alvarez's own clear voice that sings out in every line. These are not poems of a woman discovering herself--Alvarez might say that's what her twenties were for--but of a woman returning to herself. Now, in the middle of her life, she looks back as a way of understanding and celebrating the woman she has become. And she hides nothing: from her early marriages to her late-in-life love, from the politics that informed her to the prejudice that haunts her still. Her fears, her accomplishments, and the ready humor that permeates even her darkest thoughts are all proffered to the reader.

    Perhaps the truest words to describe this remarkable collection are the two that give the last section its title: keeping watch. We are pulled into the intimate circle of a woman who keeps us company by sharing the stories and insights that we often keep to ourselves.

  • Seven Trees (1998)

  • Homecoming (1996)

  • The Other Side / El otro lado (1995)

  • The Housekeeping Book (1984)

Young Adult
  • Finding Miracles (2004)
    Milly Kaufman is an ordinary American teenager living in Vermont—until she meets Pablo, a new student at her high school. His exotic accent, strange fashion sense, and intense interest in Milly force her to confront her identity as an adopted child from Pablo’s native country. As their relationship grows, Milly decides to undertake a courageous journey to her homeland and along the way discovers the story of her birth is intertwined with the story of a country recovering from a brutal history.

    Beautifully written by reknowned author Julia Alvarez, Finding Miracles examines the emotional complexity of familial relationships and the miracles of everyday life.

  • Before We Were Free (2002)
    Anita de la Torre never questioned her freedom living in the Dominican Republic. But by her 12th birthday in 1960, most of her relatives have emigrated to the United States, her Tío Toni has disappeared without a trace, and the government’s secret police terrorize her remaining family because of their suspected opposition of el Trujillo’s dictatorship.

    Using the strength and courage of her family, Anita must overcome her fears and fly to freedom, leaving all that she once knew behind.

    From renowned author Julia Alvarez comes an unforgettable story about adolescence, perseverance, and one girl’s struggle to be free.

See also:
  • Julia Alvarez: Novelist and Poet (2007) by Clarissa Aykroyd

  • Re-Visioning of the Heroic Journey in Postmodern Literature: Toni Morrison, Julia Alvarez, Arthur Miller, And American Beauty (2006) BY Leslie Goss Erickson

  • Julia Alvarez: Writing a New Place on the Map (2005) by Kelli Lyon Johnson
    This book provides the first book-length examination of the writings of Julia Alvarez, the author of How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents and nearly a dozen other books of fiction and non-fiction and one of today’s most widely read Latina writers. Kelli Lyon Johnson perceptively illuminates the themes, ideals, and passions that unite these diverse and rich works, all of which explore issues of understanding and representing identity within a global society. Forced by political oppression to leave the Dominican Republic when still young, Alvarez has lived most of her adult life in the United States. Johnson argues that through her narratives, poetry, and essays, Alvarez has sought to create “a cartography of identity in exile.” Alvarez inscribes a geography of identity in her work that joins theory and narrative across multiple genres to create a new map of identity and culture.

    By asserting that she is “mapping a country that’s not on the map,” Alvarez places creativity and multiplicity at the center of this emerging cartography of identity. Rather than elaborating a “hybrid” identity that surreptitiously erases distinctions and difference, Alvarez embraces the mestizaje or mixture and accumulation of identities, experience, and diversity. To Alvarez, linguistic and cultural multiplicity represents the reality of what it means to be American, and she offers a compelling vision of both self and community in which the homeland Alvarez seeks is the narrative space of her own writings. As Johnson shows, Alvarez will continue to shape American literature by stretching the literary cartography of identity and of the Americas.

    A closer look at the work of one of today's most widely read Latina authors.

  • Postmodern Cross-Culturalism and Politicization in U.S. Latina Literature: From Ana Castillo to Julia Alvarez (2004) by Fatima Mujcinovic
    Employing a comparative and cross-ethnic approach, this book provides a sophisticated literary and cultural analysis of texts by Mexican American, Puerto Rican, Cuban American, and Dominican American women writers. As she engages contemporary feminist, political, postcolonial, and psychoanalytic theory, Fatima Mujcinovic investigates how selected U.S. Latina narratives have proposed a rethinking of minority subject positioning under the postmodern conditions of cultural hybridization, gender objectification, political oppression, and geographic displacement. In its emphasis on gendered, diasporic, exilic, and geopolitical identities, this book specifically examines works by Ana Castillo, Cristina García, Graciela Limón, Demetria Martínez, Rosario Morales, Aurora Levins Morales, Judith Ortiz Cofer, Helena María Viramontes, and Julia Alvarez.

  • Colonial Subject's Search for Nation, Culture, and Identity in the Works of Julia Alvarez, Rosario Ferre, and Ana Lydia Vega (2003) by Eda B. Henao

  • Julia Alvarez: A Critical Companion (2001) by Silvio Sirias
    Julia Alvarez made her mark on the American literary horizon with the 1991 publication of her debut novel How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents, a story based on her own family's bicultural experiences. Readers and critics alike quickly discovered the writer's penchant for extracting humor from hardship, and weaving personal history into vivid prose. Within a decade, Alvarez had published three more highly acclaimed novels, including !Yo! (1997), a delightful sequel to her first novel. This Critical Companion introduces readers to the life and works of Dominican American writer Alvarez and examines the thematic and cultural concerns that run through her novels. Full literary analysis is provided for each, including historical context for the factually based works, In the Time of the Butterflies (1994) and In the Name of Salome (2000). A brief biography and a chapter on the Latino novel help students to understand the personal and literary influences in Alvarez's writing. This first full-length treatment of Julia Alvarez discusses her entire canon of writings including her poetry, short stories, children's fiction and nonfiction. The four novels are analyzed fully, each discussed in its own chapter with sections on plot, character development, literary device, thematic issues and narrative structure. Cultural and historical contexts of the work are also considered, and alternate critical perspectives are given for each novel. A select bibliography makes this volume a valuable research tool for students, educators and anyone interested in Latino literature.

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