Julia Alvarez was born in the U. S. , but raised in the Dominican Republic. She was raised in a patriarchal family, meaning the men worked while the women stayed home and cooked, cleaned, and took care of the children. She lived in the Dominican Republic until age ten when she was forced to flee to the U. S. for safety from the shrewd Dominican dictator, Rafael Trujillo. Alvarez created characters and conflicts in her books, such as In the Time of the Butterflies, based on her family and her cultural experiences.
Alvarez lived in a patriarchal family and had many women in her life as her mentors. She came from a large family of girls and that influenced the family in her book. One author wrote, “Julia Alvarez was born Julia Altagracia Maria Teresa Alvarez in New York City in 1950, the second of four daughters, but her family returned to the Dominican Republic when she was still an infant. ” (Haley) Alvarez was the second of four girls just like the character Dede in In the Time of the Butterflies. Her parents were both from the Dominican Republic and this had an effect on the setting of her book.
Research shows, “Her mother and her father, a doctor, both came from large, affluent Dominican families that had respect for and connections to the United States. ” (Haley) Alvarez was raised in the Dominican Republic, which is where her story takes place. Similarly, Alvarez was raised around many girls and spent most of her life with her cousins. Elsie Haley wrote, “Alvarez and her sisters grew up in a large and traditional extended family; she remembers the men going to work and the children being raised with their cousins by a large group of aunts and maids.
She came to recognize the restrictions these women faced: One aunt was trained as a physician but did not practice; another aunt, known as the one who read books, was unconventional and unmarried. ” (Haley) The characters in Alvarez’s book were also raised around several women and they spent a good bit of time around their cousins. Just like the characters in the book, the Alvarez family was not extremely well off, but they made do with what they had. According to the encyclopedia, “Life was somewhat communal; Alvarez and her sisters were brought up along with their cousins and supervised by her mother, maids, and many aunts.
Although her own family was not as well off as some of their relatives, Alvarez did not feel inferior. ” (Encyclopedia of World Biography) While she was not wealthy, similarly to Dede, she did not feel like she was of less importance. Her want to write and tell stories was bolstered by her experiences with her family. One author wrote, “Alvarez, fascinated by the possibilities of storytelling, would draw on her experiences with her aunts, maids, cousins, and siblings for several of her novels, notably How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents. ” (Haley) She used her personal stories to write the novels that have been published today.
Just like her family inspired her stories, so did her cultural experiences. Alvarez’s culture played a large role in what happened in her writings and explained where she got her ideas. Her father was one of the many adversaries of the dictator of the Dominican Republic who tried to overthrow him. The encyclopedia said, “The dictator of the Dominican Republic, Rafael Leonidas Trujillo Molina, could not victimize a family with such strong American ties. However, when Alvarez’s father secretly joined the forces attempting to oust Trujillo, the police set up surveillance of his home. (Encyclopedia of World Biography)
This shows up in her story In the Time of the Butterflies where the women’s husbands and sons were joining a revolution to get rid of the dictator. Because of her father’s involvement in the revolution, Alvarez and her family had to flee to America. One source said, “Describing the scene as their plane landed in the United States in American Scholar, Alvarez wrote, ‘All my childhood I had dressed like an American, eaten American foods, and befriended American children. I had gone to an American school and spent most of the day speaking and reading English.
At night, my prayers were full of blond hair and blue eyes and snow…. All my childhood I had longed for this moment of arrival. And here I was, an American girl, coming home at last. “” (Encyclopedia of World Biography) Like Alvarez, characters had to flee from Trujillo’s rule to avoid persecution. However, even though she was born in America, the move back was arduous for Alvarez because her peers did not accept her very much. According to the encyclopedia, “Alvarez’s homecoming was not what she had expected it to be.
Although she was thrilled to be back in America, she would soon face homesickness, alienation, and prejudice. (Encyclopedia of World Biography) She was alienated by her peers, so she turned to writing. Alvarez used stories as an escape from socialization. The encyclopedia says, “As she related to Brujula Compass, the experience was like a crash: ‘The feeling of loss caused a radical change in me. It made me an introverted little girl. ‘ Alvarez became an avid reader, immersing herself in books and, eventually, writing. ” (Encyclopedia of World Biography) Like a character in In the Time of the Butterflies Alvarez used writing as a way to share what was going on within her life.
Her culture also changed the way she looked at the world. Haley wrote, “This relationship gave Alvarez a new culture to negotiate, a new appreciation for farming and gardening, and a new project……. This project is the subject of the novel The Cafecito Story, which Alvarez calls an ‘eco-parable’ and a love story, written primarily for young readers. ” (Haley) This change in her life and culture created the subject of another story of hers, proving to be a major influence. Julia Alvarez uses her Dominican culture and family experiences to create similar characters and conflicts.
Dede’s life growing up was very similar to Alvarez’s life. Alvarez wrote, “They’re all there, mama, Papa, Patria-Minerva-Dede. Bangbang-bang, their father likes to joke, aiming a finger pistol at each one, as if he were shooting them, not boasting about having sired them. Three girls, each born within a year of each other! And then, nine years later, Maria Teresa, his final desperate attempt at a boy misfiring. ” (Alvarez 8) Dede was the second of four girls, just like Alvarez. The families in the book were also large and very close knit.
One example is, “The days started to fill, Nelson was born, and two years later, Noris, and soon I had a third belly growing larger each day. They say around here that bellies stir up certain craving or aversions. Well, the first two bellies were simple, all I craved were certain foods, but this belly had me worrying all the time about my sister Minerva. ” (51) The family life experiences of Alvarez showed up in this part of the book when Patria was talking about her family and how big it was getting. The roles of the women also show up in Alvarez’s writing.
She wrote, “I moved back home with the children in early August, resuming my duties, putting on a good face over a sore heart, hiding the sunas the people around here say-with a finger. And slowly, I began coming back from the dead. What brought me back? It wasn’t God, no senor. It was Pedrito, his grief so silent and animal-like. I put aside my own grief to rescue him from his. “(53) This part shows that the role of the woman in a house was to keep the men happy and to raise the children and to take care of the house.
Alvarez also included how family was family, no matter the circumstances. “I want to meet them. They’re my sisters, after all. ‘I could see he was moved by my acknowledging them. He reached over, but I was not yet ready for his hugs……. There they were, awaiting Papa, four little girls in look-alike pale yellow gingham dresses. The two oldest must have recognized me, for their faces grew solemn when I got out of the car. ” (91) Even though the children were born unconventionally, Minerva still accepted them as her sisters and as family.