As a young child of Dominican descent born in the United States, her parents decided to return to their homeland when she was just three months old. Her parents soon returned to the United States. Even though being back in a familiar land, she was very estranged from it. The language barrier became an issue in the classroom and the natives treated her with hostility. She remembers being called “Spic” and telling it to her mother, who insisted her classmates were only saying “Speak!” This inspired her to write about her experiences.
Her experiences of being in America have transformed her into a writer. Loving to hear and tell stories as a kid, she used this as a device to write successfully and wholeheartedly. Alvarez made writing her path for life. She enrolled herself in writing classes throughout high school, college, and graduate school. When she began writing, she saw that there was a discrepancy between mainstream literature and Hispanic literature. Often Hispanic literature was unheard of so this was a chance to break through the bubble and integrate Hispanic writers into mainstream. She began teaching and landed a tenure position at Middlebury College.
Struggling between her joy of writing and newfound passion for teaching, she decided to give up her tenured post, but stayed on as a writer-in-residence. Currently, she is residing in the Champlain Valley with her husband. They started a farm-literacy center called Alta Gracia to improve the quality of life for the farming community.