Connecticut College recently honored three members of the community with the 2015 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Service Awards, conferred each year on those who exemplify and uphold the legacy of Dr. King's work.
Julia Alvarez, poet, essayist and author of 14 novels for adults and children, including "How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents" and "In the Time of the Butterflies," will give a talk, "Sustainability and Storytelling," Tuesday, Nov. 5, at 7 p.m. in the 1962 Room of the College Center at Crozier-Williams, followed by a book signing. The event is free and open to the public.
Alvarez, who is writer-in-residence at Middlebury College, and her husband Bill Eichner are the founders of Alta Gracia, an organic coffee farm and literacy center in the Dominican Republic. The farm has inspired several of her books, including a “A Cafecito Story” and her recent memoir, “A Wedding in Haiti.”
Alvarez was born in the United States but left with her parents when she was three months old to return to their native Dominican Republic. The family hurriedly left the Dominican Republic in 1960 because of her father’s involvement in the underground movement against the country’s dictator Rafael Trujillo. Four months after they left, three of the underground movement’s founders — the Mirabal sisters — were murdered by the dictatorship.
At Connecticut College, she was a student of Pulitzer Prize-winning poet William Meredith, who introduced her to the famed Breadloaf Writing Conference in Vermont.
“I fell in love with Robert Frost country,” she said. She subsequently transferred to and graduated from Middlebury.
Her years at Connecticut College remain foundational to her writing identity, she said, recalling the thrill of winning the College's Benjamin T. Marshall Poetry Prize for poetry two years running; it’s still the first academic honor listed on her curriculum vitae.
“For an immigrant girl – just seven years in America – to win this prize in my second language was so affirming,” she said. “Connecticut College never gets the credit for me because I transferred, but in fact, that’s where it all began.”