By Sarah Vistocco ’13
The English Department’s Greyfriar Living Literature Series welcomed author Julia Alvarez to campus this spring. She also headlined the annual Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King Lecture Series on Race and Nonviolent Social Change. The dynamic writer has received critical acclaim for her novels, poetry and essays. She is best known for her novels “In the Time of the Butterflies” and “How the García Girls Lost Their Accents.”
As part of the Greyfriar Series, Alvarez was invited to read a segment of her novel “A Wedding in Haiti.” The novel grew from Alvarez’s personal experience and became “a pebble in her shoe,” or a story begging to be told, as the author described. Alvarez explained to the audience that being able to write and reach others can be a powerful gift. She stated, “You use this skill set that you’ve been given … and with it you serve.”
Alvarez also answered questions from a packed audience. Students taking an honors seminar that focused exclusively on her work were able to interact with her during the lecture, and beforehand during a meet-and-greet.
Associate Professor of English Lisa Nevarez, Ph.D., taught the honors class. She said the seminar format allowed her to facilitate sustained, in-depth conversations about Alvarez’s literary achievement. “The benefit of Alvarez’s visit is that the literature comes alive,” Nevarez added.
Students were encouraged by Alvarez to pose whatever question came to mind. When asked how she felt when she heard a class was being taught about her novels, Alvarez admitted that her first thought was “… but I’m not dead yet!” Alvarez added that having a course designed around her work is gratifying and compels her to keep creating.
During the meet-and-greet, Alvarez provided details about her writing style, explained which fictional characters she most enjoyed developing and described the passion she has for what she does. “People say, ‘You write every day?’ I say, ‘if you’re a mother do you stop being a mother some of the days?’ Writing is a calling. It’s a way of being,” Alvarez said.
Michelle Campbell ’13, who was enrolled in Nevarez’s honors seminar, spoke directly with Alvarez during the event. “I learned that writing isn’t always a relaxing process. It takes dedication, focus and the willingness to sacrifice,” said Campbell.
The author also offered some perspective about pursuing one’s biggest dreams and deepest desires. Alvarez wished someone would have said to her, “Just have a good life. Try to find your passion, connect with it and then try to figure out a way to support your habit.”