JULIA ALVAREZ Biography - Writers


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In 1960, at the age of ten, Julia Alvarez arrived in the United States from the     
Dominican Republic. Uprooted from her native country, culture, and language,         
Alvarez began writing and made language her homeland. Even as a child, she had a     
passion for listening to stories. As an immigrant, books provided a world for       
her in which she did not feel isolated. Although coming from a traditional           
family where she received no encouragement to pursue a career and was expected       
to become a housewife, Alvarez' love of words won over. Alvarez claims that         
being in the United States where she was surrounded by books, and where women       
were encouraged to discover their talents, contributed to her becoming an author.   
By the time she was in high school, she knew that she wanted to be a writer. In     
college, Alvarez studied literature and writing, and in 1971 she graduated summa     
cum laude from Middlebury College. In describing her college experience, she         
says: "When I went to college, we read a little Jane Austen and Emily Dickinson.     
Like that was really going to help me, a Latina woman. . . . I thought I had to     
write like them in order to be a writer in English. I didn't know you could put     
'amorcito' in a story in English." In 1975 Alvarez received an MA in Creative       
Writing from Syracuse University. Since then, she has taught literature and         
writing in schools at all levels, and she is currently a tenured professor at       
Middlebury College. During this time, Alvarez has also been a prolific writer.       
In 1984, Homecoming, a book of poems, was published. Although poetry was her         
first love, Alvarez moved on to write prose. In 1990 she published How the           
Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents. This remains her most recognized novel, for         
which she won the PEN Oakland/Josephine Miles Award. It tells of the experience     
of the four Garcia sisters, who, like Alvarez, came to New York City from the       
Dominican Republic. In fifteen interconnected stories, Alvarez tells of the         
girls struggle to find their place somewhere in-between the two distinct             
cultures to which they belong -- that of the American mainstream and of the         
country from which they came.