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University of Texas at Austin

Julia Alvarez:

An Inventory of Her Papers at the Harry Ransom Center

Creator: Alvarez, Julia
Title: Julia Alvarez Papers
Dates: 1963-2014 (bulk 1983-2011)
Extent: 224 document boxes, 7 oversize boxes (osb) (106 linear feet), 3 oversize folders (osf), 252 bound volumes (bv), 20 computer disks
Abstract: The papers document all major writings by author and poet Julia Alvarez and include notes, typescripts, periodicals, photographs, background research, publicity materials, and electronic files. Editorial, business, and personal correspondence are also present.
Call Number: Manuscript Collection MS-5311
Language: English, Spanish
Access: Open for research Certain restrictions apply to the use of electronic files. Please contact the Ransom Center well in advance of your visit if you are interested in accessing this type of material (email: Access to original computer disks and forensic disk images is restricted. Restrictions on Use: Copying electronic files is not permitted. Staff will make a good faith effort to retrieve electronic files from digital media but in certain cases, due to technological obsolescence or file degradation, data may be inaccessible.

Administrative Information

Acquisition: Purchase and Gift, 2013-2014 (13-03-009-P, 14-04-009-G)
Processed by: Micah Erwin, 2015 and Grace Hansen, 2016

Harry Ransom Center, The University of Texas at Austin

Biographical Sketch

The daughter of native Dominicans, Julia Alvarez was born in New York City in 1950. Within three months of her birth her parents decided to return to their homeland overthrow American-backed dictator Rafael Leonidas Trujillo. The family was forced to flee the Dominican Republic in 1960 when his involvement in a plot to assassinate the dictator was uncovered. Assisted by Manuel Chavez, a CIA contact stationed in Santo Domingo, the family was able to secure needed documents and travel safely to New York City.
Alvarez lived with her family in Queens for four years before being shipped off to boarding school in Massachusetts. During those early years, her sisters and she experienced their new country from a bicultural perspective. Ambivalence toward America as an adopted culture is a theme that permeates her first novel How the García Girls Lost their Accents (1991). Although she was initially interested in becoming a visual artist, Alvarez discovered her talents for creative writing. She attended Connecticut College from 1967 to 1969 (where she studied with William Meredith and June Jordan), and received a Bachelor’s degree (summa cum laude) from Middlebury College in 1971 (Robert Pack was her teacher) and a Master’s degree in Creative Writing in 1975 from Syracuse University (working with W. D. Snodgrass and Philip Booth). A grant in 1980 from Phillips Andover Academy allowed Alvarez to spend the summer at the Bread Loaf School of English, exploring creative writing, which helped launch her career as an award-winning author and poet.
Alvarez moved frequently from the time she graduated from Syracuse until she became a professor of English at Middlebury College in 1988. From 1975 to 1977, she taught poetry in Kentucky public schools as part of the Poet-in-the-Schools program. The following year, she taught in California and Maryland, where she worked with many Latino students, and North Carolina, where she primarily worked with African-American senior citizens. Her experiences in North Carolina provided the basis for her publication Old Age Ain't for Sissies (1979).
Following these posts, she taught writing and English at Phillips Andover Academy (1979-1981), the University of Vermont (1981-1983), George Washington University (1984-1985), and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (1985-1988). In 1987, she was awarded a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship. The following year she became a professor, and later, when she renounced tenure to spend more time on her writing and book touring, she was named a Writer-in-Residence in the English Department of Middlebury College..
Documenting the Hispanic-American experience and the Caribbean diaspora Alvarez has authored eight novels, numerous poetry collections, and a growing number of children's and young adult fiction. She frequently chooses Dominican and Caribbean women of historical importance as the subjects of her novels but interprets them through an imaginative lens. Her work has contributed greatly to critical theories about multiculturalism, biculturalism, and post-colonialism.
Julia Alvarez was elected to the National Members Council, PEN American Center, from 1997 to 1999 and is the recipient of numerous awards and honors including the Hispanic Heritage Award (2002), the Vermont Arts Council's Governor's Award for Excellence in the Arts (2011), and the National Medal of Arts (2014). As of 2015, she resides in Vermont with her spouse Bill Eichner, a physician and farmer.


Julia Alvarez, 1950-.Contemporary Authors Online. (accessed 17 November 2014).
Julia Alvarez Papers, 1963-2013, Harry Ransom Center.
Personal e-mail correspondence with Julia Alvarez, July 9-14, 2014.

Scope and Contents

Handwritten and typescript drafts, page proofs, galleys, correspondence, research materials and notes, legal and editorial records, photographs, audio and video recordings, floppy disks, awards, books, notebooks, journals, magazines, newspaper clippings, periodicals, posters, maps, and electronic files document the life, work, and family of Julia Alvarez from 1963 to 2013. The eight series are arranged by size and/or importance: I. Long Works, 1966-2012; II. Short Works, 1963-2012; III. Career and Personal, 1966-2014; IV. Public Appearances, 1998-2008; V. Correspondence, 1974-2013; VI. Publicity, 1981-2012; VII. Notebooks, 1975-1990; VIII. Periodicals, 1971-2013. With the exception of the arrangement of long works and short works, for which the order has largely been imposed, each series maintains the original order and reflects Alvarez's meticulous record-keeping activities. Although a number of languages are present (most notably Spanish) the bulk of the materials are written in English. All items are in stable condition.
Series I. is divided into two subseries: A. Novels and Collections and B. Children's and Young Adult Works. The Series constitutes just over half of the Alvarez papers, documenting her literary activities from 1971 to 2012. Several unrealized works are present in addition to her published novels, poetry collections, children's and young adult fiction, and nonfiction works. Research materials relating to In the Name of Salomé, finding miracles, Return to Sender, Once Upon a Quinceañera, and Saving the World are particularly extensive. Materials relating to book tours for individual works are located in Series IV. Public Appearances (1998-2008), and the bulk of publicity materials for most works are located in Series VI. Publicity (1981-2012).
Subseries A. Novels and Collections includes numerous handwritten and typescript drafts, page proofs, galleys, correspondence, clippings, research materials, limited publicity, and electronic files for Apothecary Jars ((an unrealized 1983 work containing materials that would form the basis of chapters in How the García Girls Lost Their Accents), A Cafecito Story (2001), Homecoming (1984), The Housekeeping Book (1984), How the García Girls Lost Their Accents (1991), The Land Columbus Loved Best (unrealized work 1991-1992), In the Name of Salomé (2000), Once Upon a Quinceañera (2007), The Other Side/El Otro Lado (1995), Saving the World (2006), Seven Trees (1998), Something to Declare (1998), In the Time of the Butterflies (1994), A Wedding in Haiti (2012), The Woman I Kept to Myself (2004), and ¡Yo! (1997). No complete typescripts are present for Old Age Ain't for Sissies (1979), but materials relating to this edited anthology of poetry are present in Series III. Career and Personal. Subseries A. is arranged alphabetically by title, and items under each title are generally arranged chronologically and/or alphabetically by folder title, or by the author's original order (when discernible).
Shannon Ravenel was Alvarez's primary editor for her Algonquin Books publications and a correspondent with whom she maintained a close professional relationship. Although many of Alvarez's drafts contain Ravenel's editorial revisions and comments, such edits are only noted in the finding aid when it distinguishes between drafts. Extensive notes and background materials relating to Alvarez's works of historical fiction and nonfiction (e.g., In the Time of the Butterflies and In the Name of Salomé) provide ample evidence of her preliminary research activities. The author typically created research files with folders containing correspondence, printouts, photocopies, notes, and other materials relevant to the work. She often pasted photographs or artwork cut from publications to the folders as a mnemonic device, and all such folders were retained during processing and rehousing. Alvarez's writing process is well documented in materials for her first novel-length work How the García Girls Lost Their Accents (1991). Numerous early chapter drafts--first published as individual essays--and later typescripts provide evidence of the evolution of the work. Photocopies of published early versions of García Girls chapters and typescript and handwritten drafts of Woman I Kept to Myself, Homecoming, and The Other Side are arranged under Short Works. A few handwritten early versions of stories in How the García Girls Lost Their Accents are present in Series VII. Notebooks, 1975-1990.
Subseries B. Children's and Young Adult Works includes handwritten and typescript drafts, page proofs, correspondence, clippings, research materials, and limited publicity for Before We Were Free (2002), The Best Gift of All (2008), finding miracles (2004), A Gift of Gracias: The Legend of Altagracia (2004), Return to Sender (2009), The Secret Footprints (2000), and the Tía Lola Series. (2001-2011). The subseries is arranged alphabetically by title, and items under each title are generally arranged chronologically or by the author's original order (if discernible). Tía Lola Series titles are arranged alphabetically under the heading "Tía Lola Series" and include How Tía Lola Came to V̶i̶s̶i̶t̶ Stay (2001), How Tía Lola Ended Up Starting Over (2011), How Tía Lola Learned to Teach (2010), and How Tía Lola Saved the Summer (2011). Materials relating to all four of these works are arranged chronologically at the end of the series.
Series II. Short Works includes numerous typescript, handwritten, and electronic drafts of published and unpublished essays, short stories, op-eds, articles, and poems. A few chapter drafts from her longer works are intermingled with items in this subseries. The Series documents her early publication efforts from the 1960s and 1970s through her years as an established author and is arranged alphabetically by the original titles Alvarez assigned to groupings of associated works. Among the various subjects included are "Autobiography, " " Latinas," " Place Essays," and "Poetry in the Schools." All titles are listed in the Index of Short Works.
Series III. Career and Personal is the second largest series. Employment files, awards and honors, correspondence, grant and fellowship applications, invitations and writing requests, graduate school files, publication efforts, research, interviews, public appearances, teaching, writer-in-residence activities, electronic files, and digital images document Julia Alvarez's career as a writer, poet, teacher, and professor. Although some juvenilia and personal and family materials are present, the series largely represents her professional life. Her activities as a writer-in-residence and teacher from the 1970s to the 1990s are particularly well documented. The Series is arranged alphabetically by subject and/or folder title.
Series IV. Readings and Other Public Appearances includes correspondence, occasional typescripts, electronic files, and other materials related to her numerous speaking engagements throughout the country. Engaging with the public through poetry and the literary arts has constituted a major part of Alvarez's career as evidenced through frequent participation in poetry festivals, book tours, reading requests, Latino festivals, library events, commencement addresses, and small local gigs. Alvarez maintained a thorough record of these events from 1998 to 2008. Additional files on assorted public engagements from 1985 to 2010 are filed under "Public Appearances" in Series III. Career and Personal. Series IV is arranged chronologically by year and then alphabetically by subject.
Series V. Correspondence spans 12 boxes and 10 electronic files and is organized alphabetically by correspondent name. Individuals are represented either by incoming or outgoing letters from 1971 to 2013. The series includes correspondence with friends, colleagues, editors, activists, family, and other associates. Prominent correspondents include Peter Balakian, Daisy Cocco-DeFilippis, Edwidge Danticat, Seamus Heaney, David Huddle, Erica Jong, Patrick J. Leahy, Beatriz Maggi, Cecilia Rodríguez Milanés, Barry Moser, Katherine Neville, Achy Obejas, Sue Ellen Thomson, Bernardo Vega, A. J. Verdelle, Tobias Wolff, and Judith Yarnall.
Series VI. Publicity, spans five boxes and comprises review clippings, awards, publicity tour materials, press clippings for Before We Were Free, A Cafecito Story, Gift of Gracias, Once Upon a Quinceañera, In the Name of Salomé, The Secret Footprints, In the Time of the Butterflies, and ¡Yo! along with publicity materials for her poetry collections. The series also includes publicity and review materials for the film adaptation of In the Time of the Butterflies and general publicity about Alvarez. Materials are arranged alphabetically by title and original order.
Series VII. Notebooks is the smallest series and comprises notebooks with handwritten drafts of a number of short stories including early versions of short stories that would eventually become chapters in How the García Girls Lost Their Accents. The series is arranged according to original order. Drafts are indexed in the Index of Short Works.
Series VIII. Periodicals includes published magazines, journals, poetry collections, and other serial publications containing works by Julia Alvarez from 1971 to 2013. The series is arranged alphabetically by journal title.
A Note on Arrangement and Description
Unless otherwise stated, the phrase with revisions indicates that the manuscript contains handwritten (as opposed to typescript) changes. Folder titles are generally transcribed directly from the original folder headings and are only placed in quotation marks if they appear confusing.
Container and folder numbers were updated in 2017; at the end of the finding aid, the original container and folder numbers are listed in brackets after the updated container and folder numbers. Additionally, each folder in the collection lists the updated number followed by the original number in brackets. Not all folder numbers were updated; folders in boxes 1-6 and 10-18 retained all or most of their original numbers.

Separated Material

A mahogany box containing keepsakes, including items belonging to her father, a 3D laser engraved crystal Quinceañra gift, a black decorative pen cap, a bobble-head cow, a pink ribbon with ID tag for dairy cow, a small pencil, wax candle with three glass beads, a shoe box with decorative lid containing various keepsakes, a handmade Haitian textile gift from Edwidge Dandicat depicting La Sirene, and medals dating from 1963 to 2006 were transferred to the Ransom Center Personal Effects Collections.
264 bound volumes, 10 audio books, and 6 DVDs were transferred to the Ransom Center Library. Transferred items include copies of works in translation, anthologies containing her work, and all her published novels, collections, and children and young adult works.
28 VHS tapes and 3 DVDs including award ceremonies, interviews, and several local adaptations of her works from 1997 to 2010 were transferred to the Ransom Center Moving Image Collection.
21 compact discs, including reader auditions for In the Time of the Butterflies and Once Upon A Quinceañra, Bread Loaf lectures and readings, public radio shows from various stations featuring Julia Alvarez or her work, and 22 audio cassettes and 1 compact disk on assorted topics including award ceremonies, interviews, readings, and research for Something to Declare, In the Time of the Butterflies, In the Name of Salomé, and Return to Sender (1978-2003) were transferred to the Ransom Center Sound Recordings Collection and are described individually in a list at the end of this finding aid and in a searchable database.
15 computer disks labelled "early short stories, 1984 or so," 12 compact disks related to research for Once Upon A Quinceañra, 3 compact discs related to research materials for Saving the World and In Search of Salomé, and 3 compact discs, 2 DVDs, and 2 computer disks on assorted subjects including the Hispanic Heritage Awards, the National Book Festival and In the Time of the Butterflies (2002-2009 and undated) were transferred to the Ransom Center Electronic Records Collection.

Index Terms


Alvarez, Julia.
Balakian, Peter, 1951- .
Cocco-DeFilippis, Daisy, 1949.
Danticat, Edwidge, 1969- .
Huddle, David, 1942- .
Jong, Erica, 1942- .
Leahy, Patrick J.
Maggi, Beatriz, 1924- .
Milanés, Cecilia Rodríguez.
Moser, Barry.
Neville, Katherine, 1945- .
Obejas, Achy, 1956- .
Thompson, Sue Ellen, 1948- .
Vega, Bernardo, 1938- .
Verdelle, A. J., 1960- .
Wolff, Tobias, 1945- .
Yarnall, Judith, 1940- .


Alfred Knopf and Crown Books for Young Readers.
Algonquin Books.
American Library Association.
Andover Phillips Academy.
Breadloaf School of English.
George Washington University.
Middlebury College.
Random House Children's Books.
Share Our Strength.
University of Vermont.


AIDS (Disease)--Patients.
Balmis, Francisco Xavier de.
Biculturalism--United States.
Coffee--Dominican Republic.
Dominican Americans.
Dominican Republic--History--1930-1961.
Expedición Marítima de la Vacuna.
Family relationships.
Henríquez Ureña, Salomé Camila, 1894-1973.
Identity (Philosophical concept).
Immigration advocates.
Immigration enforcement--Mexican-American Border Region.
Mirabal, Bélgica Adela, 1925-2014.
Mirabal, María Teresa, 1935-1960.
Mirabal, Minerva, 1926-1960.
Mirabal, Patria, 1924-1960.
Poetry, American--20th century.
Quinceañera (Social custom)--United States.
Trujillo Molina, Rafael Leónidas, 1891-1961.
Ureña de Henríquez, Salomé, 1850-1897.
Women and literature--United States-- History--20th century.
Women Revolutionaries.


Altos de Chavón.
Dominican Republic.
Middlebury (Vt.).

Document Types

Artists' books.
Digital images.
Electronic records.
Floppy disks.
Galley proofs.
Legal documents.
Page proofs.
Printed ephemera.
Sound recordings.
Works of art.

Container List