National Endowment of the Arts - The Big Read
In the Time of the Butterflies

In the Time of the Butterflies

by Julia Alvarez

I found in literature a place where the table was set for all. Everybody was welcome. I found true democracy in reading.


Julia Alvarez, 2000 (Courtesy of Caleb Kenna)

Julia Alvarez was born in New York City, but her family moved back to the Dominican Republic when she was only three months old. In 1960 authorities discovered that Alvarez's father belonged to an underground effort to overthrow the brutal dictator Rafael Trujillo, so the Alvarezes fled back to the United States. Educated at Middlebury College and Syracuse University, Alvarez spent many years teaching around the United States until the success of her first novel, How the García Girls Lost Their Accents (1991), allowed her to pursue writing full-time. Perhaps best known for her work of historical fiction In the Time of the Butterflies (1994), her recent publications include Return to Sender (2009) and A Wedding in Haiti (2012).

Praised as a dynamic solo artist, Neko Case is also a vocalist in the celebrated Canadian pop group The New Pornographers. The Virginia-born singer-songwriter has developed a sound all her own, a mix of country, gospel, and rock. Her studio albums have won her critical acclaim and devoted fans. Her albums include Fox Confessor Brings the Flood (2006) and Middle Cyclone (2009).

Born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Edwidge Danticat moved to New York at age twelve, joining her parents who had previously left Haiti. Her acclaimed, loosely autobiographical first novel, Breath, Eyes, Memory (1994), began as her MFA thesis from Brown University. She followed this success with a lyrical collection of short stories called Krik? Krak!(1995). Danticat's 1998 novel, The Farming of Bones, fictionalizes a historical tragedy—the 1937 massacre of more than 12,000 Haitian farm workers ordered by Trujillo.

Writer Junot Díaz was born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. He is probably best known for his 2007 novel, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, the winner of many prizes including the Pulitzer. His short stories have appeared in The New Yorker and the series Best American Short Stories. He has received several honors, including a fellowship from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. He is a Professor of Writing at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Max Paul Friedman is an Associate Professor of History at American University in Washington, DC. A specialist in 20th-century U.S. foreign relations, his 2003 book, Nazis and Good Neighbors: The United States Campaign against the Germans of Latin America in World War II, won the Herbert Hoover Book Prize in U.S. History and the A.B. Thomas Book Award in Latin American Studies. He graduated from Oberlin College and U.C. Berkeley, and his many honors include a Woodrow Wilson Postdoctoral Fellowship.

Born in Los Angeles, Ana Menéndez is the daughter of Cuban exiles. Her works of fiction include In Cuba I Was a German Shepherd (2001), Loving Che (2003), The Last War (2009), and Adios, Happy Homeland (2011). Since 1991, Menéndez has worked as a journalist in the United States and abroad, including a three-year stint in India and most recently as a prize-winning columnist for The Miami Herald. She is a former Fulbright Scholar in Egypt.

Dedé Mirabal is the second eldest and only surviving Mirabal sister. She lives in Salcedo, Dominican Republic, in the house where she and her sisters were born. She has devoted her life to preserving their memory. She founded the “Museo Hermanas Mirabal,” also located in Salcedo, which was home to the women for the final ten months of their lives. Her first book, Vivas en su jardín (2009), is a memoir about her sisters and their opposition to the Trujillo dictatorship.

Minou Tavárez Mirabal is the eldest daughter of Minerva Mirabal and Manolo Aurelio Tavárez Justo. She was four years old when her mother was killed, and seven years old when her father was killed. A political leader and public speaker, she was appointed Under-Secretary of Foreign Affairs and serves as a representative to the Chamber of Deputies (the Dominican equivalent of the U.S. House of Representatives). She is the vice chairman of the Parliamentary Confederation of the Americas (COPA).

An award-winning actress and narrator, Adriana Sananes was born in South America, but considers herself a New Yorker at heart. She has recorded more than 80 bestselling books including Loving Che, My Sister Frida, and the AUDIE-nominated How the García Girls Lost Their Accents. She also narrates Dedé Mirabal's memoir, Vivas en su jardín. Sananes narrated the Academy Award-nominated documentary Children of Fate(1993). A leading actress at New York's Repertorio Español for ten years, her voice has been heard in a variety of places such as PBS, UNICEF, the United Nations, Berlitz, and the American Foundation for the Blind.

Josephine Reed is Media Producer at the National Endowment for the Arts. She was the program director of the book and contemporary theater channel at XM Satellite Radio and a long-time producer and host of a literary public radio show heard in the Washington, DC, area.

Born in Mexico to an Eastern European Jewish family, Ilan Stavans is a professor of Latin American and Latino Cultures at Amherst College. His books include The Hispanic Condition: Reflections on Culture and Identity in America (1995), Spanglish: The Making of a New American Language (2003), and A Critic's Journey (2009). He has received a Guggenheim Fellowship and is currently working on a multi-volume biography of Gabriel García Márquez.

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