News | August 28, 2013

Novelist, Poet, and Essayist Julia Alvarez’s Archive Acquired by Ransom Center

AUSTIN, Texas — The Harry Ransom Center, a humanities research library and museum at The University of Texas at Austin, has acquired the archive of acclaimed novelist, poet and essayist Julia Alvarez (b. 1950).

Alvarez’s extensive archive consists of manuscripts, correspondence, journals and professional files. The manuscripts span her writing career and include fiction, nonfiction, poetry, essays and unpublished works, often in multiple drafts. Alvarez regularly sent drafts of her work to friends and colleagues, and these copies usually bear handwritten comments from the reader alongside Alvarez’s revisions.

Alvarez’s correspondence includes poems and letters from fellow writers such as Sandra Cisneros, Edwidge Danticat, Dana Gioia and Marilyn Hacker.

Alvarez was born in New York City but raised in the Dominican Republic until she was 10. In 1960 her family was forced to flee the Dominican Republic when it was discovered that her father was involved in a plot to overthrow dictator Rafael Trujillo.

Alvarez once noted of her return to the U.S.: “I think of myself at 10 years old, newly arrived in this country, feeling out of place, feeling that I would never belong… I found myself turning more and more to writing as the one place where I… felt I belonged and could make sense of myself, my life, all that was happening to me.”

Much of Alvarez’s work is considered semi-autobiographical, drawing on her experiences as an immigrant and her bicultural identity. Alvarez’s unique experiences have shaped and infused her writing—from such award-winning novels as “How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents” and “In the Time of the Butterflies” to her poetry.

“I feel very moved that my archive has found a home in your amazing library,” said Alvarez. “So much of my work is about homecoming, finding roots in the English language, in the craft of writing. It's heartening to know that I have found a home in readers’ imaginations, and now very literally, at the Harry Ransom Center, where I hope those who read for pleasure and those most careful readers of all, scholars and critics, will be able to follow a life given over to a calling. To trace and track an emerging voice at the very cusp of a Latino writing boom in the USA, working in multiple genres, connecting with a community of other contemporary writers. To quote myself at the end of the ‘33’ sequence in my first book, ‘Homecoming’: ‘I once was in as many drafts of you.’ The papers will prove that I wrote the truth!”

Alvarez’s archive will reside alongside the papers of other prominent contemporary writers such as T. C. Boyle, Denis Johnson, Tim O’Brien, Jayne Anne Phillips and David Foster Wallace. It will also complement the university’s internationally respected resources in Latin American studies, providing a unique and enriching resource not only for literary study but also for the study of Latin American history and government and other prominent social and cultural issues of our time.

“Alvarez’s archive will provide students and scholars access to her experience-driven explorations of race, family, culture and society,” said Ransom Center Director Thomas F. Staley. “As one of the key figures in the rise of Caribbean and Latino writing over the past three decades, she writes poignantly and authentically about topics that are central to current cultural debates, from immigration to bicultural identity.”

The Alvarez materials will be accessible once processed and cataloged. High-resolution press images are available.

For more information, contact: Jennifer Tisdale, Harry Huntt Ransom Humanities Research Center, 512-471-8949;  Alicia Dietrich, Harry Huntt Ransom Humanities Research Center, 512-232-3667.