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Does Julia Alvarez ever tire of being classified as “a Latina writer”? The author of the novel How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents (Chapel Hill, N.C.: Algonquin Books, 1991) says she’s proud to be part of a chorus of multicultural voices in America, though she adds it’s “sometimes not so much a chorus but a shouting match.” In her early work, she felt pressure to translate the events of her life into American experiences. “I thought that’s what you had to do…. I was pre-multicultural,” Alvarez says.

Alvarez’s Dominican roots are at the heart of her latest novel, ¡Yo! (Algonquin, 1997), which revisits the life of Yolanda, one of her celebrated Garcia girls.

Mother Jones asked Alvarez what music and literature she’s enjoyed lately. Here’s what she had to say about Grandes Exitos de Juan Luis Guerra (Karen Publishing, 1996), “radical merengue” from Guerra and the Dominican group 4 40:

“They’ve taken merengue, our traditional kind of music, but they’ve made it kind of contemporary and politicized it. It ends up being a very powerful statement about poverty in the countryside.”

Also recommended by Alvarez:

DrownDrown (New York: Riverhead Books, 1996) by Dominican author Junot Díaz. “The collection is Díaz’s first. He’s really part of the next wave, the next generation coming up of such powerful writers. For me, to hear the Dominican rhythms and street talk in English was wonderful.”

Elizabeth Bishop--Complete PoemsComplete Poems: 1927-1979 (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1990) by Elizabeth Bishop. “I love how she’s able to write in form, with such control and yet such a wonderful, casual, observing voice. Bishop lived in Brazil for over 20 years. She’s got this mixed vision of her experience in Brazil with an American sensibility that is wonderful.”

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THE BIG PICTURE

You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

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