Born in New York City, Julia Alvarez moved to the Dominican Republic with her Dominican American parents when she was an infant. In 1960, though, the political situation forced the family to return to New York. Alvarez has explained that the experience of being forced to refine her English upon returning to the United States made her very aware of language—good training for a writer.
Alvarez’s poetry often explores her identity as a Dominican American. She writes about childhood memories and the experience of being an immigrant living between two cultures. Alvarez has also written a number of novels, including How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents (1991) and In the Time of Butterflies (1994), which was set during the Trujillo dictatorship in the Dominican Republic and adapted into a motion picture released in 2001.