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Author Series: Julia Alvarez

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Born in New York City, Julia Alvarez moved to the Dominican Republic with her family when she was three-years-old. As she grew up, she developed a talent for storytelling that would later blossom into her successful writing career as an adult. Alvarez is considered one of the most talented and widely read Latina writers.

For Alvarez, writing literature stemmed from her personal experiences living the the U.S. and the D.R. Much her writing illuminates identity and assimilation themes central to American life. These themes were derived from her move back to the U.S. when she was 10, after a failed political situation by her father.

Living in the U.S. was challenging for Alvarez, she said she “lost almost everything: a homeland, a language, family connections, a way of understanding, and a warmth.” She struggled as one of the few Latina students in a Catholic school.

As a teenager she attended boarding school at Abbot College and later moved on to Connecticut College and Middlebury College after graduation. She also received her Master’s Degree from Syracruse University. As an adult, Julia Alvarez worked as a creative writing teacher, editor and panelist.

She continues to write and give lectures across the country in addition to running her organization Alta Gracia, a farm-literacy center dedicated to the growth of organic coffee through environmental stability and the promotion of literacy and education, with her husband.

Julia Alvarez

How much do you know about this Latina author and her novels?

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Frankenstein, Or The Modern Prometheus (1818)

Victor Frankenstein is a scientist and a philosopher who decides to craft a creature like a man. He collects parts from butchers and dissecting labs to patch together a living being that later learns to speak, have intelligent thought and emotions.

The Gothic novel has many dark themes, but never ventures into fantasy or magic. Considered one of the first science-fiction books, Frankenstein explores the ethical implications of genetic engineering (far before its time) and what it means to connect with people in psychological and emotional ways. The book also touches on loneliness, identity and what it means to be human.

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Lodore (1835)

Mary Shelley finished writing Lodore in 1833, and the novel was published two years later with much critical acclaim. The story features the mother and daughter of Lord Lodore and a woman named Fanny Derham, who are all very different, illustrating the varied roles women held in aristocratic society.

Shelley explores themes of power, family and patriarchy as each of these women encounters challenges in their lives after they inherit money from Lord Lodore, the head of the household. The three women characters are the daughter and wife of Lord Lodore, Ethel and Cornelia, as well as Fanny Derham, who contrasts the other two women.

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The Last Man (1826)

Mary Shelley wrote and published another lesser known science-fiction novel about an apocalypse where the world is ravaged by a plague. The novel received a lot of criticism at the time because it has many biographical elements about the people she associated with, primarily men in politics.

The narrative follows an up and down power struggle as people slowly become infected with the plague. Ultimately Shelley explored what it means to be an individual and the tragedy of being lonely.

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Rambles in Germany and Italy (1844) Mary Shelley's final published work, Rambles in Germany and Italy, a piece of travel writing, describes her two European trips with her son Percy Florence Shelley.

The novel has a political slant, but is also a very personal exploration of her trip and past experiences in Italy, where she and her husband lived for five years when they were younger. This work of non-fiction received much praise because few political writing was done by women in that time.

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