Julia Alvarez is a Dominican-American writer. She was born on March 27, 1950. Now, she writes about how she learned English. She emphasizes her struggles with English. Julia was born in New York but her parents returned to the Dominican Republic when Alvarez was three months old. When Alvarez was ten, her parents came back to America. Julia became fluent in two languages. Her first language is Spanish and she felt a responsibility to keep it. This became her struggle. She had to learn English at her American school.
She thought of English as a harder version of Spanish. When Julia and her sisters were kids, her parents would use English to talk about things they did not want the children to know. Julia would study her mother's face, trying to figure out what her mother was saying. At the same time, Julia would study her teachers' faces, trying to figure out English.
Julia's mother was the first to break the family tradition and send her girls to higher education. Julia was well Americanized at Abbot Academy. Julia's mother emphasized the importance of learning English. She insisted that they learn English. As hard as Julia tried, a Spanish word slide into her English.
Sister Maria Generosa had a significant impact on Julia when Julia was in the sixth grade. Sister Maria Generosa did not make her memorize verbal rules. She allowed her to use her imagination when she picked up an item for them to translate into English.
No doubt, Julia became fluent in English. She still thought of her English as a harder version of Spanish. But she could speak English as fluently as a Native English speaker. Now she writes in English:
Many of Alvarez's works are influenced by her experiences as a Dominican in the United States, and focus heavily on issues of assimilation and identity. Her cultural upbringing as both a Dominican and an American is evident in the combination of personal and political tone in her writing. She is known for works that examine cultural expectations of women both in the Dominican Republic and the United States, and for rigorous investigations of cultural stereotypes.