Other Free Encyclopedias » Brief Biographies » Biographies: (Hugo) Alvar (Henrik) Aalto (1898–1976) Biography to Miguel Angel Asturias (1899–1974) Biography » Julia Alvarez: 1950—: Author Biography - From Latina To "gringa", Student, Itinerant Poet, And Teacher, Poet And Author

Julia Alvarez: 1950—: Author - Student, Itinerant Poet, And Teacher

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In 1967 Alvarez enrolled at Connecticut College. "I grew up in that generation of women thinking I would keep house. Especially with my Latino background, I wasn't even expected to go to college," she told Publishers Weekly. "I had never been raised to have a public voice." Yet the appeal of writing outweighed her cultural and family heritage, and under the tutelage of encouraging teachers, Alvarez began to take her writing seriously. For her efforts she won the Benjamin T. Marshall Prize in poetry at Connecticut College in 1968 and again in 1969. After attending the Breadloaf Writers' Conference at Middlebury College in Vermont, she transferred to the school. In 1971 she was awarded the Creative Writing Prize, and in the same year earned her B.A. from Middlebury, graduating with highest honors. With her confidence growing, Alvarez enrolled at Syracuse University to pursue graduate studies. In 1974 she won the American Academy of Poetry Prize; the following year she was awarded a M.A. in creative writing.


After her graduation, Alvarez became something of an itinerant poet, writer, teacher, and lecturer, claiming 15 different addresses over the next 13 years. From 1975 to 1977 she served with the Kentucky Arts Commission as one of three poets in the state's poetry-in-the-schools programs. In 1978 she was involved with pilot projects funded by the National Endowment for the Arts: a bilingual program in Delaware and a senior citizen program in North Carolina. Alvarez enjoyed her years of travel. She told Publishers Weekly, "I felt like the [Walt] Whitman poem where he travels throughout the country and now will do nothing but listen. I was listening. I was seeing the inside of so many places and so many people, from the Mennonites of Southern Kentucky to the people of Appalachia.… I was a migrant poet. I would go anywhere."

In 1979 she began her career as a teacher of English and creative writing. After two years as an instructor at Phillips Andover Academy in Massachusetts, Alvarez joined the faculty at the University of Vermont in1981. In 1984 she moved to George Washington University, where she served the year as the Jenny McKean Moore Visiting Writer. In 1985 she became an English professor at the University of Illinois. During the winter of 1988 she served as the resident writer in an artists' colony in the Dominican Republic. In the same year she returned to her alma mater, Middlebury College as an assistant professor of English. She was awarded tenure in 1991 and named full professor in 1996. Two years later, she remitted her professorship to become the college's writer-in-residence, which allows her to continue to teach creative writing on a part-time basis and advise Latino students and English majors.


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