Julia Alvarez: official author website
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Julia Alvarez holding a sign saying: "Soy tu amiga, tu hermana, tu hija, tu mamá, tu abuelita, tu mariposa, pero #NoSoyTuMamacita."


Friday, November 25, 2016 is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, the first day of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence! This day is especially significant in the Dominican Republic, as it was created to commemorate the assassination of national heroines, the Mirabal sisters.

With this photo, I am joining The Mariposa DR Foundation in the #16DaysOfActivism campaign. Here is a little more about it:

We are basing our campaign on one of the most prevalent forms of gender-based violence: the street harassment that women around the world face every day. Our rallying cry will be #nosoytumamacita and we will encourage girls and women around the world to post photos of themselves affirming their identities.

For example, a woman could create a sign that says "I am a doctor and save lives. #nosoytumamacita". Men are welcome to join in on the campaign too, and can post affirming messages such as "I don't support violence against women #nosoytumamacita" or "She is more than a statistic #nosoytumamacita".

Share your own photo here.

This Butterfly, created out of titles of my books, was made by a student at Norwich University and sent to me by Professor Patricia Ferreira.  We have not been able to track the artist down yet, so if you are out there...

Wear a Butterfly on November 25th

. . . And tell the girls and boys worried about walls and bullies the stories. Tell them there are Mariposas everywhere, including inside them, seemingly fragile, hiding in cocoons, developing wings that can carry them across continents, borders, and over the intolerance and violence that the worst among us can stir up. . . <read more>

Where Do They Go? by Julia Alvarez, illustrated by Sabra Field is available now.

Where Did Where Do They Go? Come From?

Some books you will yourself to write, some have their own wills and come through you, insisting on being written.

A few years ago, I began losing many of the people I love. One of the difficult things about coming from a culture where your extended familia is considered your "nuclear" family is that you don't just lose a set of parents, a couple of aunts and uncles, but dozens upon dozens of tías, tíos, madrinas, padrinos, abuelitas, abuelitos. A whole flank of familia is suddenly gone...

Keep reading on the Seven Stories Press blog.

Border of Lights
October 7-9, 2016

The Global Vigil will be held on Saturday, October 8th from 8pm - 10 pm, which includes a Twitter Chat and Facebook Q + A and Virtual Vigil (posting candles and lights the Parsley Massacre). The Twitter Chat and Facebook Q & A will happen simultaneously.

At border between Haiti & Dominican Republic

Virtual Vigil
Saturday, October 8, 2015
8 - 10 pm EST
Please join us!

Border of Lights will be on the border towns of Dajabón, DR and Ouanaminthe, HT from October 7-9, 2016. This is our fifth year, gathering at the border between Haiti and the Dominican Republic, to commemorate the massacre of 1937, and also to promote peace and collaboration between two countries who have been historically in conflict. There will be a Twitter Chat (@border_oflights) and Facebook Q + A and Online Vigil.

Visit our website:

Please be sure to follow us on Facebook:

Twitter handle for BOL is @border_oflights.

Including an entry by Julia Alvarez, "We Are Bold: Women Who Turn Our UpsideDown World Right," is available now.

We Are Bold: Women Who Turn Our UpsideDown World Right

Edited by Natalie Eve Garrett
Illustrations by Amy Jean Porter

This is great project/book about bold women who have made a difference. I have a piece in there about Mirabal Sisters called "The Butterfly Effect: the Mirabal sisters of the Dominican Republic." The book is meant to inspire women/girls as well as men/boys.

Visit for more about the book.

Including an entry by Julia Alvarez, "The Artists

The Artists' and Writers' Cookbook: A Collection of Stories with Recipes

Edited by Natalie Eve Garrett
Illustrations by Amy Jean Porter

This anthology just came out and artists and writers each wrote about a favorite recipe. I have an entry called, "Mom's Bad Ginger Cookies"!

Visit for more about the book.

Where Do They Go? by Julia Alvarez, illustrated by Sabra Field

Web Ñapa

I was invited to address the annual gathering of the American Booksellers Association Children's Institute, which took place in Orlando, Florida, only eleven days after the horrific shootings of forty-nine mostly young people -- not as young as the twenty children shot down in Sandy Hook (along with six adults) in December 2012, but many of them young people on the brink of their adult lives. I wanted to share my thoughts on how we go on When The Worst Happens.

Heal the wounds of Hispaniola

"The government says it is doing all it can, but the faces and stories that Amy Martin captures say it is not enough. We must do more to help by encouraging Dominican and Haitian authorities to regularize the status of all their citizens and by providing humanitarian assistance to those who find themselves destitute, stateless and bereft of hope.

"The world could use an island of peace, harmony and prosperity anywhere right now. Close to home might be a place to start."

Read more: Heal the wounds of Hispaniola, my op-ed in Miami Herald, December 19, 2015

"Where You Live When You Don't Belong" is a piece from Amy S Martin's project Identidad. Idantite. Identity. which aims to bring to light the current situation of those of Haitian descent living in Dominican Republic.

Click to see more from this exhibit.

This Butterfly, created out of titles of my books, was made by a student at Norwich University and sent to me by Professor Patricia Ferreira.  We have not been able to track the artist down yet, so if you are out there...

Wear a Butterfly on November 25th

This year, November 25th falls the day before Thanksgiving in the United States. A day of families and friends and communities gathering together to share the harvest, a day of giving thanks. And so I give thanks for Patria, Minerva, María Teresa, and Dedé Mirabal. . . <read more>

Click! contains an image archive covering feminist history. Poster commemorating the Mirabal Sisters. Donated by Julia Alvarez.


Wide ranging, engaging, with a national focus but an international scope, CLICK! is an astonishing resource for educators, historians, all of us who have come of age in feminism, and are embedded in the history and sometimes cannot see the forest because of the surrounding trees. A website archive -- the first of its kind that I know of! It's a site I will keep visiting and revisiting, sending my students, colleagues, friends to it, availing myself of the videos, photos, text, and testimony which makes history come alive in an innovative, transformative, integrated way.

Even as a feminist, after visiting Click! I've understood feminism as never before!

Brava, Clio, Brava, Click!

Here's exhibit link:

There's also a great article about CLIO and review of the exhibit in Vermont Woman.

Including two short stories by Julia Alvarez, "Been There, Done That: Writing Stories from Real Life," is available now.

Been There, Done That: Writing Stories from Real Life

Edited by Mike Winchell
Illustrator: Eglantine Ceulemans

I have contributed two pieces to this very sweet anthology. One is a non-fiction story from my childhood and the other is the same story turned into, well, a story.

Visit for more about the book.

Border of Lights
October 1-4, 2015

At border between Haiti & Dominican Republic

Virtual Vigil
Saturday, October 3, 2015
8 - 10 pm EST
Please join us!

Message from Julia
September 2, 2015

We will again be on the border between Haiti and the Dominican Republic for our annual BORDER OF LIGHTS gathering, Oct 1-4, 2015. Besides our vigil at the border towns of Dajabón and Ouanaminthe, we will also undertake a number of projects and educational venues with both communities, including stocking the kitchen at the orphanage in Ouanaminthe, painting the firehouse in Dajabón, holding an educational/informational forum/dialogue in the central park, a roundup town meeting with organizations and activists to serve as our closing session... <read message>

Visit our website:

Please be sure to follow us on Facebook:

Twitter handle for BOL is @border_oflights.

April 13, 1949-February 27, 2015

Julia & Maury -- 62 years ago
Julia & Maury -- 62 years ago
Read my ñapa: Maury

Our beloved Maury, mother, sister, friend, passed away on February 27, 2015, in her home in Conway, Massachusetts. Noble-hearted, generous to a fault, larger than life, she cast her bread upon the waters and kept us all in the steady supply of her affection, her attention, her gifts, her warmth, her zany humor, and her sense of fun. For many years she worked in community health, including spearheading programs in Latino mental health in Boston, where she spent most of her professional life. She taught at Harvard Medical School and was a senior staff psychologist at Cambridge Hospital, specializing in services for immigrants and refugees. After her parents' return to their native Dominican Republic, she moved there to provide loving, devoted care to them in their last years. Friendship and abounding compassion were always her guiding stars -- she never held back when a friend needed her, and when there was someone in need, they instantly found a friend in Maury. Tellingly, the subject of her doctorate dissertation was in "The Constructing of Friendship in Adulthood." But Maury needed no institution to teach her this deep-seated gift in her nature or degree to certify she was a genuine friend. We ask in lieu of flowers or donations to a specific cause -- and she had many she championed -- that those who want to preserve her legacy cast their bread upon the waters, wherever they find themselves. That will be her true legacy to those who mourn her and admire her.

Read my ñapa: Maury.

My poem "On Sunday" won the PSA poetry lyric award for 2015. I wasn't able to be at the ceremony because I was en route to DR with my granddaughters (13 and 10) to volunteer for a week at Mariposa DR Foundation -- a way to begin early teaching them about service and also about having fun, which they don't need lessons on, but grandma might.

New Books

A new short story by Julia Alvarez, "A Light Out," which is about a migrant worker is included in the Vermont Fiction Anthology
Julia Alvarez writes about the gospel of Mark in Passion: Contemporary Writers on the Story of Calvary

My friend and colleague at Middlebury College Larry Yarbrough asked five writers to look at the Passion story in the four gospels. I "got" the gospel of Mark, the starkest, leanest of the bunch. At first I wanted Luke or Matthew because I'd long heard they were the ones with many details, beloved by writers, but I was glad because this stark and lonesome narrative appealed to me as I wrote it, grieving over the loss of my parents -- first to Alzheimer's, then to death. Passion: Contemporary Writers on the Story of Calvary was published in February 2015.

My short story "A Light Out" which is about a migrant worker is included in Contemporary Vermont Fiction: An Anthology, published November 2014.

New York Times: Driving the Seam of Hispaniola by Julia Alvarez, 28 November 2014

Interview on VPR's Morning Edition: Julia Alvarez Writes And Fights For Migrant Justice (listen), 12 November 2014.

Julia Alvarez with Lesly Manigat in Solidarity at Border of Lights, October 2013

Border of Lights
Virtual Vigil

October 3, 2014
8 - 10 pm

Join me, won't you, in supporting our annual gathering at the border between Haiti and the Dominican Republic. This is BORDER OF LIGHTS's third annual gathering! Visit our website ( and our Facebook page to find ways to support this people's movement of goodwill, collaborative projects, sustainable solutions towards a peaceful future between two neighbor nations on a small island, modeling how to be members of a human(e) family on a small planet!

Join us for 'Eddie's Perejil: A Night of Art and Dialogue' at the Alianza Cultural Center in New York City on Saturday, September 20, 2014 at 7:30 PM. Border of Lights, October 2014

There will be a performance in NYC for those who can attend of "Eddie's Perejil", a performance piece by one of our heart's core BOLers, Edward Paulino, about the massacre. Photos by Tony Savino of past BOL gatherings will be shown and a discussion of issues brought forth in the performance. Most NY BOLers will be there. I, unfortunately, will be in Santa Fe at at retreat, but Bill and I are part of the Producer's Circle, and we've been asked to put the word out so that others can join that circle. This is apart from BOL Kickstarter, a separate/added way to support the work we are doing. To purchase your tickets or to make a donation please visit:

National Medal of Arts

On July 28th, 2014, I was at the White House to receive the National Medal of Arts from President Obama. I was thrilled, but overwhelmed with big feelings. As I said to any number of people: by this stage in life, we know that we don't get to be who we are without the investments and contributions of so many people, hundreds of "invisible hands," helping us along the way.
Read on in my ñapa.

Here are some interviews and articles:
White House blog (video)
National Medal of Arts (includes audio)
Vermont Edition Interview (audio)
Burlington Free Press (includes video)

Julia Alvarez with Lesly Manigat in Solidarity at Border of Lights, October 2013
Solidaridad. Dominicana. Haitiano.
Lesly Manigat y Julia Alvarez.

Border of Lights
Virtual Vigil

October 5, 2013
8 - 10 pm

We're doing Border of Lights again, October 4-6, 2013 in Dajabón, DR, and Quanaminthe, Haiti. We also created a successful Kickstarter project. This year, because of increased tensions between the two countries, we have not been able to procure the permits to gather at the border and have been discouraged from any large group gathering. We will still be holding a service and a small group of us will stand at the border in solidarity. Instead we are asking supporters to join us for an online vigil, October 5, Saturday, from 8-10 pm (EST). This is a way that those who cannot be physically on the ground with us can "join" us online. We hope the vigil goes viral and global, as this will send a powerful message to both countries that there is a community out there supporting change, peace, harmony between both countries.

Archive Acquired by Ransom Center

My "papers" -- yes, all those boxes of stuff Packrat Alvarez could not bear to throw away -- have found a home at the Harry Ransom Center at University of Texas at Austin. I'll be going there in the spring of 2014 to give the "christening" reading!

From the Press Release:

Sketch of The Tavárez-Mirabal Residence, relating to In the Time of the Butterflies. Image courtesy of Harry Ransom Center.
Sketch of 'The Tavárez-Mirabal
Residence,' relating to In the Time
of the Butterflies
. Image courtesy of
Harry Ransom Center.

Alvarez's extensive archive consists of manuscripts, correspondence, journals and professional files. The manuscripts span her writing career and include fiction, nonfiction, poetry, essays and unpublished works, often in multiple drafts. Alvarez regularly sent drafts of her work to friends and colleagues, and these copies usually bear handwritten comments from the reader alongside Alvarez's revisions.

Alvarez's correspondence includes poems and letters from fellow writers such as Sandra Cisneros, Edwidge Danticat, Dana Gioia and Marilyn Hacker.

"Alvarez's archive will provide students and scholars access to her experience-driven explorations of race, family, culture and society," said Ransom Center Director Thomas F. Staley. "As one of the key figures in the rise of Caribbean and Latino writing over the past three decades, she writes poignantly and authentically about topics that are central to current cultural debates, from immigration to bicultural identity."

The Alvarez materials will be accessible once processed and cataloged. High-resolution press images are available.

Read full Press Release

A Wedding in Haiti: The Story of a Friendship

With a bright and beautiful new red cover, A Wedding in Haiti is now out in paperback! Not only that, but the official publication date for the Spanish edition Una boda en Haití is June 5, 2013 (but I hear it is available for preorder now). Find out more about my latest book:

I'm a Guest Blogger!

"I am a virgin blogger! I've never done a blog-blog before. I hesitate because, I actually have blogged before, but not intentionally, and what I was doing was not called by that name...
"But now I am an official blogger for five days at Powell's. Every day you will get a fresh blog entry, promise. And since I'm on tour with my new nonfiction book, A Wedding in Haiti: The Story of a Friendship, I thought I'd share a few of the little back stories that went into writing this book..."

Read my Guest Blogs at

Three Musketeers with Governor and VCA chairman Carris, November 2011

Governor's Award for Excellence in the Arts

On November 4, 2011, Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin and the Vermont Arts Council presented me with the Governor's Award for Excellence in the Arts at the Vermont Arts Gala in Montpelier. Writing for me is all about the work. The farmer next door has his sheep, and I do my writing. I've never liked the segregation of "being an artist." I'd rather have my work fit into the weave of the community. This is just my job. When something like this happens, I'm always surprised. . . and grateful!

Read my account of the evening in my latest web-ñapa. Read more about the award in Addison County Independent and at

Mariposa Girls Leadership Program

The Mariposa DR Foundation won The First Annual Girl Effect Challenge in November 2011. I am on the advisory board of the Mariposa DR Foundation and I was so happy to see them earn a spot under the Girl Effect umbrella and receive a portion of the funding from the Nike Foundation for the next year. The Mariposa Girls Leadership Program educates, empowers and employs girls living in extreme poverty in the Dominican Republic -- setting them off on the path to become active leaders for social change.

How Tía Lola Ended Up Starting Over, a book for young readers by Julia Alvarez
Available Now
How Tía Lola Saved the Summer, a book for young readers by Julia Alvarez
Available Now

Readings & Writing Prompts
to do with the Tía Lola books

I made up a list of passages and writing prompts to do with the kids at Symphony Space's Thalia Book Club in October 2011. I wanted to share that list with all of you.

Tía Lola Stories:
all four are out!

How Tía Lola Ended Up Starting Over, the last book in the series, is available now -- welcome to Tía Lola's bed and breakfast!

To celebrate the publication of the last book of the Tía Lola series, I will be making some appearances in October, in Vermont, Massachusettes and New York -- click for details.

How Tía Lola Saved the Summer was published in May. The warm and funny third book in the Tía Lola Stories is sure to delight young readers and leave them looking forward to their own summer fun!

How Tía Lola Learned to Teach was included on the 2010 Chicago Public Library Best of the Best List and also selected for the Winter 2011 Kids' Indie Next List by IndieBound.

Live Skype Session

Join me for an Internet-assisted live discussion facilitated by Hayward City Council member Francisco Zermeño. The event will take place at the Hayward Public Library in Hayward, California on May 10, 2011 at 1 pm. More info at

Algonquin National Book Club Launch: Live Interview and Webcast of Julia Alvarez interviewed by Edwidge Danticat, March 21, 2011.
In The Time of the Butterflies: a novel by Julia Alvarez -- click for book summary and more

Butterflies on Stage

In Spring 2011, Repertorio Español, New York's main Spanish-language theater company, showed "En el tiempo de las mariposas", based on In the Time of the Butterflies. It was exciting to see them make my story come alive onstage. You can see photos & watch videos from the production at

November 25th, 2010

Fifty years later, it's still the time for Butterflies. Why not start an international movement? Join me in a simple new tradition: wear a butterfly (a pin, a T-shirt, a barrette) on November 25, 2010 (& every year!), for Butterflies everywhere. Speaking of Butterflies, listen to this NEA Podcast for more of their story -- & mine.

How Tía Lola Learned to Teach, a book for young readers by Julia Alvarez
How Tía Lola
Learned to Teach

Letter to Readers of Tía Lola Stories

If you want to know how I came to write about Tía Lola, here's a short letter to fans of Tía Lola and to the readers of these books.

Tía Lola Blog Tour 2010

If you haven't yet met Tía Lola, I hope you will join us on the online blog tour that took place in October 2010. The blog posts are still available here:

Why Tía Lola and I Love Sayings
How Tía Lola Cooks Her Beans the Dominican Way
How Tía Lola Makes Rice the Dominican Way
What Do I Do When I'm Not Writing? part one
What Do I Do When I'm Not Writing? part two
A Typical Writing Day
Introducing (some of) My Tías

Gracias to those who hosted &
read Tía Lola Blogs!

Eveoke opened its 2010/2011 season with Las Mariposas, an original dance theatre production inspired by my novel In the Time of the Butterflies. In December 2011, it was my great pleasure to see the dance performance again in the Dominican Republic, along with girls from Mariposa DR Foundation, a nonprofit that rescues young girls and educates them to ensure that they will not become victims of poverty or violence.

RETURN TO SENDER, a novel, ages ten and up (and up!), by Julia Alvarez -- click for book summary

RETURN TO SENDER is now out in paperback! Also released September 14, 2010, is the Spanish translation Devolver al Remitente, translated by the very talented writer and translator, Liliana Valenzuela.

RETURN TO SENDER is on Oprah's 2010 Kids' Reading List!

RETURN TO SENDER, by Julia Alvarez, is on Oprah's 2010 Kids' Reading List

The Big Read

In the Time of the Butterflies was added to The Big Read library. The Big Read is a program of the National Endowment for the Arts designed to revitalize the role of literary reading in American popular culture. They have posted a marvelous Radio Show, Reader's Guide and Teacher's Guide for the book, available on their website:

NEA Podcast: Julia Alvarez speaks about writing In the Time of the Butterflies.

In The Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez

November 25th, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, will be the fiftieth anniversary of the death of the Mirabal sisters. You can bet I will be wearing a butterfly on that day! Perhaps also to honour this anniversary, an adaptation of my novel In the Time of the Butterflies heads the 2010-11 season for Repertorio Español, New York's main Spanish-language theater company.

RETURN TO SENDER was selected as one of two winners of the 2010 Americas Award for Children and Young Adult's Literature, sponsored by the national Consortium for Latin American Studies Programs (CLASP). "Alvarez's cast of characters includes people of all ages and political perspectives, and readers cannot help but conclude that getting to really know and understand our neighbors is the only way to improve life for all who live in the United States."

Watch the ceremony at the Library of Congress website.

RETURN TO SENDER, by Julia Alvarez, was selected as one of two winners of the 2010 Americas Award for Children and Young Adult's Literature.

How the García Girls Lost Their Accents was selected for THE BIG READ (April 16, 2010), and How Tía Lola Came to Visit Stay for the little read (April 17, 2010) at Lenoir-Rhyne University, Hickory, North Carolina.

The American Library Association's Pura Belpré Award, established in 1996, is presented to a Latino/Latina writer and illustrator whose work best portrays, affirms, and celebrates the Latino cultural experience in an outstanding work of literature for children and youth. I was excited and honored to hear that the Pura Belpré Author Award for 2010 was awarded to RETURN TO SENDER!

RETURN TO SENDER, by Julia Alvarez, was winner of the Pura Belpré Author Award from the American Library Association.

A response to the recent earthquake in Haiti, my latest ñapa is A Chance to Turn the Tide. To help:

In October 2009, I went to D.C. to receive the 2009 F. Scott Fitzgerald Award for Outstanding Achievement in American Literature. The award ceremony was part of the annual F. Scott Fitzgerald Literary Conference held at Montgomery College in Rockville, MD. (the Awards Ceremony is now on YouTube for all to enjoy). Awful rainy, chilly weather but a warm reception and gracious hosts and lively participants. True, when the moment came and I read the roster of earlier recipients (Grace Paley, John Updike, Norman Mailer, William Styron, Jane Smiley, among others) I felt a little of what President Obama must have felt upon hearing he won the Nobel Peace Prize. But neither one of us is giving our respective honors back! We'll both just have to work harder to make sure we deserve to be in the company of the Great Ones who have gone before us. One of the best parts of the award was to come home to my Middlebury College community and feel their pride and enthusiasm for the achievement. The college has been a long time supporter of my work, beginning with my undergraduate years when I first embraced my calling as a writer. It was here where I learned my craft, and years later, came back to teach it to a new generation of students. Read more about the award on the Middlebury College website:

On Sunday, October 4th, I led the CROP Walk in my home town. If you think CROP Walk is a harvest festival, then you're in good company. That's what I used to think, too. And actually it is a harvest festival in which we walk in solidarity with those who are not getting any part of the harvest of the world's goods. Although you are reading this note after the walk, you can still go online and pledge your support for CROP.

I was at the 2009 National Book Festival in D.C. on September 26, 2009. I had said that the fall was closed to more traveling, but when I got invited to the first National Book Festival hosted by our new president and his wife, I couldn't resist. I admit I was invited once before, during the troubling tenure of our former prez, and I just couldn't make myself go drink his champagne and eat his finger food and shake the hand of a leader whose administration was steeped in lies. Looking back, I think I made a mistake. It's precisely when an oppressive regime is in place that you need Scheherazades in the sultan's court. I missed my chance, but I was chastened and also honored to go down to Washington to celebrate a president who understands and commands the power of words and to join fellow poets and storytellers as we slowly, yes slowly, find our way through the ruins and tumbling structures, providing what we can provide, string through this labyrinth. At the gala opening on Friday, I was selected to give the opening welcome along with four other writers: John Grisham, Judy Blume, David Baldacci, and Annette Gordon-Reed. Hands down, I was the most nervous, and it didn't help that I was the last one to speak. President Obama and Michelle were slated to be there, but sent regrets at the last moment as they were delayed at the G-20 Summit in Pittsburgh. I was actually relieved, though all my Obama-fan relatives who wanted personalized autographs from the president and Michelle were terribly disappointed. You can watch my speech on YouTube thanks to Book TV.

The Best Gift of All: The Legend of La Vieja Belén/El mejor regalo del mundo: la leyenda de La Vieja Belén, won 2009 Honorable Mention for Américas Award for Children's and Young Adult Literature.

RETURN TO SENDER was selected as a finalist for American Library Association YALSA award.

The Best Gift of All: The Legend of La Vieja Belén/El mejor regalo del mundo: la leyenda de La Vieja Belén, a bilingual picturebook (English/Spanish) has been published (November 2008) just in time for the holidays!

The Best Gift of All: The Legend of La Vieja Belén/El mejor regalo del mundo: la leyenda de La Vieja Belén
click for book summary


RETURN TO SENDER, a novel, ages ten and up (and up!), was published by Knopf Books for Children in January 2009. The seed for the novel came when I got involved translating at local schools for the children of Mexican migrant workers who have now made their way up to Vermont. (And boosted our compromised Latino population!) These workers are now doing the milking on many of our dairy farms. Without them, many of our small farmers could not survive, as they, too, are being squeezed by the high cost of farming and a dearth of workers.

RETURN TO SENDER, a novel, ages ten and up (and up!), by Julia Alvarez

Seeing how baffled the Mexican children and their classmates were about how to understand this situation that had thrown us all together, I thought: we need a story to understand what is happening to us! The title comes from a dragnet operation that the Department of Homeland Security conducted in 2006, named, Return to Sender. Work places were raided and undocumented workers were seized. Their children were the biggest casualties of this operation -- left behind to be soothed and reassured until they could be finally reunited with their parents.

Sometimes it's just plain fun to take a break from book writing and do short pieces for magazines who ask. Two recent articles are "Weybridge, Vermont: No Frills Here," Smithsonian magazine, November 2008, and "Winning the Hair Wars," MORE, October 2008.

Once Upon A Quinceañera: Coming of Age in the USA was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in criticism (announced March 2008). These are annual awards given by a consortium of book reviewers and critics from around the country. There are six categories, five finalists in each category.
Check out the website.

How The García Girls Lost Their Accents, a play by Karen Zacarías, based on my novel, had its world premiere on September 22, 2008, at the Round House Theatre in Bethesda, Maryland. Blake Robison, the Producing Artistic Director of the theatre, also directed the play, and he did a fabulous job! For one thing: the last scene was played totally in Spanish! I was there for opening night, and afterwards, even monolingual/English-only audience members claimed they understood every word. How could you not? The almost all-Latino cast was sassy, inventive, skilled -- in a word, great! The run is over (September 22 - October 12, 2008) but if the play is revived, go see it. And if you're ever in the D.C. area, go visit the Round House Theatre ( They are a great community and national resource.

It was a long time coming, but finally my first novel, How The García Girls Lost Their Accents (1991), is out in Spanish translation: De cómo las muchachas García perdieron su acento. Both Vintage Español (for USA Spanish) and Punto de Lectura/ Groupo Santillana (for Spanish-speaking countries) have published an edition of the same translation. Can't decide which cover I like better.

De cómo las muchachas García perdieron su acento -- Vintage Español De cómo las muchachas García perdieron su acento -- Punto de Lectura/ Groupo Santillana


On October 4th, 2007, the United Nations dedicated a session to honoring the work of my mother, Julia T. Alvarez. She was unable to attend due to illness, and so she asked me to go and accept the award in her place.

For twenty-three years, my mother served as alternate representative to the UN with the Dominican mission. Hers was a labor of love and public service. Many of her colleagues never knew that she never collected a salary; she felt that she had been one of the lucky few to receive opportunities and hers was a poor country that could well use the salary for other needs. She devoted herself to the Third Committee, which addresses issues involving the vulnerable populations in developing countries, including children, women, and the elderly, who became Mami's particular focus.

It was through her efforts that an International Year of Older Persons (1999) and an ongoing International Day of Older Persons (October 1st) were instituted as well as a declaration of the rights of older persons, known as the United Nations Principles for Older Persons. She was unofficially proclaimed "the United Nations Ambassador on Ageing." Her vision -- before she left the UN in 2002 -- was to start an worldwide Elders for Peace program, in which the elderly around the world would serve as promoters of peace. I hope someone picks up this torch!

At the award session, many of her colleagues and admirers expressed their gratitude for her relentless and visionary work. She helped change the way the United Nations address the ageing issue.

It was a bittersweet moment for me to bring to a close my mother's indefatigable, passionate, and groundbreaking life of public service.

If you'd like to see the webcast of the tribute, please go to:
Then scroll down to:
4 October 07    NGO/DPI: NGO Briefing - "Addressing the Challenges and Opportunities of Ageing: Empowering Older Persons" in observance of the International Day of Older Persons (1 October).
[ Programme ]
[Webcast: Archived Video - AM Session English: 1 hour and 54 minutes]

The session recognizing my mother's work begins about 15 minutes into this webcast and lasts for about 30-40 minutes.

Speeches for the Ages: An Ambassador Speaks Out on Worldwide Aging

The speeches she gave over the years are collected in Speeches for the Ages: An Ambassador Speaks Out on Worldwide Aging. If you'd like to order a copy, you can do so at the XLibris website.

Alta Gracia news

Starting September 2008, two new volunteers joined us on the farm:

Naomi Harper is the 2008-2009 DREAM volunteer teacher on the farm. She recently graduated from Middlebury College and is wonderful poet. Her poem, "Little Cages," based on her experiences in Peru was published in Babel Fruit, Volume 3, Issue 3, Summer 08.

Our other volunteer for 2008-2009, Dylan Wajda-Levie, also just graduated from Middlebury College and has worked on farms in Germany, Spain, and the United States, as well as on an organic coffee farm in Peru. He will be our Community Development Worker and also provide a link with Café Alta Gracia in the United States as a Field Operations Manager (CAG, USA).

We feel excited and blessed that these two wonderful young people will be at Alta Gracia. The farm will definitely rock and be full of high grace this coming year.

Vermont Coffee Company is our wonderful presence Stateside. Paul Ralston, the owner of VCC, roasts and distributes two coffees using beans from Alta Gracia Farm: Café Alta Gracia and Tres Mariposas. You can order online at order online at

For every pound of our coffee purchased 10 cents go to the Dream Project's Alta Gracia school program!

If you want information on what's happening on the farm, upcoming workshops, internships, please go to

Read about the farm/our project in these recent publications:

  • "Alvarez Brews Up Coffee with a Social Conscience: Cafe Alta Gracia Promotes Environmentalism, Literacy in Dominican Republic" by Deborah Jones at
  • "Couple Funds Literacy Through Coffee Imports," an Associated Press article by Anne Wallace Allen at
  • "Places of a Lifetime" by Julia Alvarez in National Geographic Traveler, October 2002, Vol. 19, No. 7.

Alta Gracia is also a partner in the DREAM Project (The Dominican Republic Education and Mentoring Project). Read all about this grass-roots movement of individuals and organizations to help improve educational opportunities for kids all over la isla:

Think about visiting! Visit online at

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