Julia Alvarez is a Dominican-American author, best known for her novel, In the Time of Butterflies. She was born in New York City but spent the early years of her life in the Dominican Republic with her family. When she was ten years old, her father became involved with an underground plot to overthrow the dictator, Rafael Trujillo, who maintained control of the country for 31 years. Her father’s plans were exposed and their family was threatened. Four months before the Mirabal sisters were assassinated by Trujillo’s regime, Alvarez and her family left the Dominican Republic. It was during this time in the early 1960s that they went back to New York City.
Alvarez obtained an undergraduate degree from Middlebury College and a master’s in creative writing in 1975 from Syracuse University. Soon after, she began teaching college writing courses. In 1991, at the age of 41 years old, Alvarez published her first book: How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents. This is a story about her life in the Dominican Republic and the struggles her family faced as immigrants. Other works of literature written by Alvarez focus on the conflicts and benefits of life as a Dominican-American. Also, she writes about the cultural role of women in society.
In the Time of the Butterflies was published in 1994. In the novel, it portrays the lives of the Mirabal sisters: Dedé, Maria Terese, Patria, and Minerva. Three of the four sisters were assassinated during the last days of the Trujillo regime. Although the novel portrays a real situation that occurred in history, Alvarez wrote In the Time of the Butterflies as a fictional story in order to spread awareness of the Mirabal sisters’ journey. The novel was a finalist for the National Book Critics Award in 1994.
Currently, Alvarez serves as a judge for various literary awards and travels the country to provide educational lectures. Prior to writing novels, she held numerous teaching positions which she left in order to devote her time to her craft. She regularly visits the Dominican Republic, and even owns a coffee bean farm with her husband, Bill Eichner. She is considered one of the most accomplished Latina writers of her time.
Alvarez's Personal Website: http://www.juliaalvarez.com/articles/
Julia Alvarez Talks About Writing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tUJcL8mlLcs
PBS Interview with Julia Alvarez: https://www.pbs.org/video/latino-americans-julia-alvarez/
Interview with Alvarez for the Chicago Public Library: https://www.chipublib.org/interview-with-julia-alvarez/
- Julia Alvarez actually shares a birthday with Mariah Carey and Jessie J: March 27!
- Before she wrote novels, Alvarez was actually a poetry and prose writer!
- In her early childhood years, she actually didn’t read books when growing up in the Dominican Republic, partly having to do with the censorship that took place under the dictatorship of Trujillo. She fell in love with books later on.
- In 2013, President Obama awarded Alvarez with the National Medal of Arts for her “extraordinary storytelling.”
- Currently, Alvarez lives full-time in Vermont.
In the Time of the Butterflies Homepage
Alexis Evans, 2018
Revised by Kaitlyn Carreras and Shannon Oteri, 2019