Julia Alvarez is an American writer of Dominican descent. She was born on March 27, 1950, in New York, New York. However, she spent her early years in the Dominican Republic after her parents’ failed attempt to stay in the United States. Julia and her sisters were raised with their cousins, and were supervised by her mother, maids, and many aunts. Her father, a doctor who ran a nearby hospital, had met her mother while she was attending school in the United States. Alvarez's family was highly influenced by American attitudes and goods. Alvarez and her sisters attended an American school, and, for a special treat, they ate ice cream from an American ice cream parlor. The entire extended family had respect and admiration for America; to the children, it was a fantasy land.
When Alvarez was ten years old, her father became involved with a plot to overthrow the dictator (military ruler) of the Dominican Republic, Rafael Leonidas Trujillo Molina. His plans were discovered, however. With the help of an American agent, he was able to get his family out of the country before being arrested or killed. The Alvarez family returned to New York. Describing the scene in American Scholar as their plane landed in the United States, Alvarez wrote, "All my childhood I had dressed like an American, eaten American foods, and befriended American children. I had gone to an American school and spent most of the day speaking and reading English. At night, my prayers were full of blond hair and blue eyes and snow.… All my childhood I had longed for this moment of arrival. And here I was, an American girl, coming home at last."
Alvarez's return to America was not what she had expected it to be. Although she was thrilled to be back in America, she would soon face homesickness and the feeling of not fitting in. She missed her cousins, her family's large home, and the respect her family had