4/23/2014 5:26:40 AM

Alvarez Brings Literature to Life

Thursday, April 25, 2013

By Sarah Vistocco '13

The English Department’s Greyfriar Living Literature Series recently welcomed author Julia Alvarez. The dynamic writer has received critical acclaim for her novels, poetry and essays.

As part of the Greyfriar Series, Alvarez was invited read a segment of her novel “A Wedding in Haiti.” The novel grew from Alvarez’s personal experience and became “a pebble in her shoe,” or a story begging to be told, as the author described. Alvarez explained to the audience that being able to write and reach others can be a powerful gift. She stated, “You use this skill set that you’ve been given … and with it you serve.”

Alvarez also answered questions from the crowded Siena audience. Interacting with her during the lecture, and beforehand during a meet-and-greet, was particularly special to those students taking an honors course that focuses strictly on her work.

Associate Professor of English Lisa Nevarez, Ph.D. is teaching the honors course. She said the honors seminar format allowed her to facilitate sustained, in-depth conversations about Julia Alvarez’s work. “The benefit [of Alvarez’s visit] is that the literature comes alive,” Nevarez added.

Students were encouraged by Alvarez to ask whatever question came to mind. When asked how she felt when she heard a class was being taught about her novels, Alvarez admitted that her first thought was “… but I’m not dead yet!” Alvarez added that having a course designed around her work is gratifying and compels her to keep creating.

During the meet-and-greet, Alvarez provided details about her writing style, explained which fictional characters she enjoyed creating most and described the passion she has for her work. “People say, ‘You write every day?’ I say if you’re a mother do you stop being a mother some of the days? It’s a calling. It’s a way of being,” Alvarez said.

Michelle Campbell ’13, who is enrolled in Nevarez’s honors seminar, spoke directly with Alvarez during the event. “I learned that writing isn’t always a relaxing process, it takes dedication, focus and the willingness to sacrifice,” said Campbell.

The author also offered advice about following one’s passions when she described advice she would have valued early in her life. Alvarez wished someone would have said, “Just have a good life. Try to find your passion, connect with it and then try to figure out a way to support your habit.”

Click here for more information on the J. Spencer and Patricia Standish Honors Program and click here to learn more about the Greyfriar Living Literature Series.

Contact: Ken Jubie
Contact E-mail: communications@siena.edu

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