Julia Alvarez EDRL 407 Kayla Kreier and Jenny Mckay
Personal History • Julia Alvarez was born in New York on March27, 1950. • Moved to the Dominican Republic at three months old. • Moved back to New York with her family at the age of 10. • Spoke no English when she moved back to the U.S. • Attended public school where she was forced to learn the English language • In learning English, Alvarez began to appreciate writing and literature. • After several years of schooling, she decided she wanted to become a writer. • Alvarez went on to earn a Bachelors of Arts degree at Middlebury College (1971), followed by her Masters in Creative writing. • Because of financial struggles, Alvarez began teaching literature, (elementary- college level) and also landed a few publication jobs with small magazines. • By 1991, Alvarez published her first novel…. And has been passionately writing ever since.
Up Close & Personal http://www.bing.com/videos/watch/video/interview-with-julia-alvarez-2009-f-scott-fitzgerald-award-honoree/b862b7f6470a4b0a16f2b862b7f6470a4b0a16f2-528162029693?q=julia%20alvarez In the interview above, Julia Alvarez expresses: • what inspired her to write (learning the English language) • The need to find passion in what you love. For Julia it was writing. Because writing wasn’t a secure job, financially, she found a new passion for children when she began to teach literature and poetry. • Insight behind some of the stories, novels, and poetry she has written. How it relates back her to cultural experiences in her younger years.
Inspiration Behind the Books • After spending much of her younger childhood growing up in the Dominican Republic, Alvarez moved the United States with knowing little to no English. • Alvarez was made fun of by her peers for her accent and lack of ability to speak English. • The bullying from peers made Alvarez determined to learn English. • Through the journey of learning the language, she discovered the world of children’s literature. • Without children’s literature Alvarez wouldn’t have the passion for writing. • In addition, the children she taught in schools also inspired her to write children’s books. • She never thought she would become a teacher, but she realized the joy of sharing her passion with students through teaching.
Just an Author? • Alvarez is the author a children’s books, novels, essays, and poetry. • Writes both fiction and nonfiction. • Her children’s books and novels are geared towards a 4th- 7th grade level. • The majority of her books are written on topics from her personal experiences growing up, such as, immigration to America and exploring cultural identity. • Her books definitely reach out to the Latino community, as most of her writings have bilingual text. • Return To Sender and Before We Were Free won the Pura Belpre award • Even though she hasn’t illustrated books, she feels the illustrator is just as important as the author because they are retelling the story through pictures.
Return To Sender • One of Julia Alvarez’s award winning books is entitled, “Return To Sender” • Winning the Pura Belpre in 2010 for outstanding writing portraying the Latino cultural experience for young people, “Return to Sender” is based on true facts that has happened and still happening in Vermont. Illegal immigrants from all over Mexico are crossing the border to come work on different farms in Vermont. • The book is about a couple of young kids and the struggles they find themselves in while trying to disobey the immigration laws of the United States.
A Closer Look Inside Return To Sender • In the book, the Paquette’s are one of the families that need cheap labor because they are on the verge of selling their farm that has been in the family for centuries. • The book focuses on the youngest son, Tyler and the friendship that is formed between the oldest daughter of the youngest immigrants, Mari. • At the beginning of the story Tyler is upset that Mari and her two younger sisters, her father and two uncles are living in a trailer on the farm. • His parents tell Tyler not to volunteer any information about these new people on the farm although he is classmates with Mari. • This books goes from being written in 3rd person focusing in on Tyler and Mari writing letters to her mother who is on her way back to the farm from her grandmother’s funeral in Mexico. • Mari’s mother told her before she left that “El papel lo aguantatodo…Paper can hold anything. Sorrows that might otherwise break your heart. Joys with wings that lift you above the sad things in your life.” She knew she would be gone for a long time, maybe never getting back to her daughter and the rest of her family. • Their original journey had been so scary and expensive. Mari studies Geography in class and sees the journey they had to take and is amazed by it but is also saddened when she realizes she is not wanted here in the United States because she was not born here like her sisters. “What a long journey to make it to a place that does not welcome us but instead sends us away!”
Mari promises her father, although she doesn’t want to, that she will not send the letters she is dutifully writing since it might make it easier for “la migra” (the immigration police) to find them. • Tyler and Mari bond over their love of astrology. Tyler shows Mari the constellations through his telescope his grandfather had bought him and she loves to look at the birds that are near the barn. • Mari is assigned in school to write a story. She ends up writing a letter to the President of the United States and explaining her situation. Comparing her life with the slave brothers who fought in the Civil War and her being born in Mexico and her two sisters being born in the United States, Mari pleads to be able to stay in the States. • Everything is nice for awhile, but eventually one of Mari’s uncles gets picked up by the immigration police. • Tyler helps get Mari’s mother back when they finally hear from the “coyotes” (the smugglers) who are holding her hostage. • Later on there is a raid at the trailer where Mari’s family lives. Her parents along with her other uncle are taken by the police in an operation by Homeland Security called “Return to Sender”. The family ends up all going back to Mexico, which is very sad for the two special friends.
Another Award Winner… Some might recognize the name of one of her books, “In the Time of Butterflies”, that got made into a movie starring the actress, SalmaHayek.
References • Alvarez, Julia. Return to Sender. (2009). New York. Random House. • Encyclopedia Of World Biography. (2011). Julia Alvarez Biography. Retrieved on April 22, 2011 from, http://www.notablebiographies.com/A-An/Alvarez-Julia.html • Potts, S. (2003). Julie Alvarez. Retrieved on April 22, 2011 from, http://www.juliaalvarez.com/