Julia Alvarez was born in New York in 1950. A year later, her parents returned to the Dominican Republic, where she lived until the age of ten. Alvarez’s father was actively involved in the underground movement to overthrow the Dominican dictator of three decades, Rafael Leonidas Trujillo. When her father’s activities became increasingly suspicious, the family fled to New York again in 1960. The reasons for their abrupt departure were concealed from Alvarez and her three sisters; her mother simply told them they were leaving for the beach. Alvarez later reflected on this deception in her essay “Our Papers”: “I would wonder if those papers [visas to leave the island] had set us free from everything we loved” (Something to Declare 19). Alvarez had, in many respects, lost a homeland. Although she would return years later, the Dominican Republic that she had known and experienced as a child was unrecoverable.
Alvarez’s love of the English language and writing began at an early age. In the Dominican Republic, her mother encouraged her daughters to learn English and provided them with an American education. In New York, Alvarez remembers a sixth-grade English teacher who nurtured her love of reading, writing, and language. Alvarez went on to study literature at Connecticut College, and then at Syracuse University. After spending many