Julia Alvarez: “Here I was. an American girl, coming home at last.”

From The Writer’s Almanac:

It’s the birthday of novelist and poet Julia Alvarez, born in 1950 in New York City. She grew up in the Dominican Republic and returned to New York when she was 10.

“All my childhood I had dressed like an American, eaten American foods, and befriended American children. I had gone to an American school and spent most of the day speaking and reading English. At night, my prayers were full of blond hair and blue eyes and snow. […] All my childhood I had longed for this moment of arrival. And here I was, an American girl, coming home at last.”…

She often writes about the experience of being caught between two cultures. Her first book was a collection of poetry, called Homecoming, and her first novel, How the García Girls Lost Their Accents, was based on the experiences Alvarez and her sisters had upon coming to New York.

She also wrote a nonfiction book, Once Upon a Quinceañera, about the tradition of throwing elaborate 15th birthday parties for young Latinas. “Imagine,” she said, “a whole community spends three months, six, a year, preparing and focusing on its young girls. Quite an investment of time and energy, and it makes the girls feel supported, loved, encouraged to be the new up and coming leaders in the community. Positive things happen at a time in life when young girls are especially vulnerable.” Her latest book is Afterlife.

In 2013, she received the National Medal of Arts from President Obama.

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