February 19, 2010

Renowned Novelist and Poet Julia Alvarez Will Meet with Students and Discuss Her Work March 31

The author of How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents and In the Time of Butterflies will present the 2010 President’s McDonogh Lecture

Julia Alvarez, an award-winning novelist and poet, will be on campus Wednesday, March 31, to meet with students and read and discuss her work.

Her talk, “I, too, Sing America,” will be at 7:30 pm. in Colton Chapel. The event is part of the President’s McDonogh Lecture Series and is free and open to the public. In the afternoon, she will hold a class/workshop with students from classes in English, Spanish, and women’s studies.

Alvarez is the author of the national-bestselling novels How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents (1991), which won a PEN Oakland/Josephine Miles Literary Award for excellence in multicultural literature, and In the Time of Butterflies (1995), which was made into a 2001 film starring Salma Hayek and Edward James Olmos.

Born in New York City in 1950, Alvarez spent the first 10 years of her life in her family’s native country, the Dominican Republic. In 1960, her family was forced to flee the country and immigrate to the United States because of her father’s involvement in an underground plot to overthrow the country’s dictator, Rafael Leonidas Trujillo Molina. The political turmoil of her native country is the basis for In the Time of Butterflies, and her hardships assimilating to the English language and American life provided the source material for How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents.

Alvarez is the author of four other novels, three poetry collections, two books of non-fiction, and seven books for young readers, including Before We Were Free (2002), which won the Pura Belpre Narrative Award for its portrayal of Latino culture.

She and her husband, Bill Eichner, founded Alta Gracia, a sustainable farm in the Dominican Republic that produces organic coffee and also serves as a literacy center. She currently lives in Vermont, where she is a writer in residence at Middlebury College.

The President’s McDonogh Lecture Series, formerly the Presidential Speaker Series on Diversity, was initiated in 2000 to encourage intellectual discourse on diversity. It is named for David Kearney McDonogh 1844, Lafayette’s first African American graduate. Historian Douglas Brinkley, who authored a biography of Rosa Parks, was the inaugural speaker in the program. Other past lecturers have included Angela Davis, an activist and professor at University of California-Santa Cruz; David Levering Lewis, a Pulitzer Prize winner and recipient of the MacArthur Foundation’s Genius Grant; and Oscar Arias Sanchez, former president of Costa Rica and 1987 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate.

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