Vermont novelist Julia Alvarez has a new tale of resurrection. Her own.

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Vermont author Julia Alvarez began writing her 23rd book: Alma once had a friend, a writer, who… – when the threat of Covid-19 stopped her momentarily.

“Being older, there’s always a feeling of, ‘Will this be my last job?’” the 74-year-old self-described “old man” wannabe recalled in a recent interview. “During the pandemic, a light was shone on all of those we now call ‘the vulnerable.’ “Suddenly, my demographic was in danger.”

Still, the former student from the Dominican Republic turned professor emeritus at Middlebury College rewrote her novel about a retired woman of letters of similar age who ponders what to do with a lifetime of unfinished drafts.

… To close a story, the elders of the house sang a song. The final has come, this story has ended. This story is done. Release the elf to the wind. But how to exorcise a story that has never been told?

Then, in a very real plot twist, Alvarez’s retina detached from one of his eyes. The Weybridge writer underwent two surgeries. Afterwards, his vision remained cloudy as he struggled to continue his work in progress.

…So it’s a real story, not how you made it up? It was a question readers often asked. Alma was tired of explaining that a novelist should not submit to the tyranny of what really happened. She herself could not always separate the threads of real life, as they called it, from pure invention.

Little by little learning to navigate his new visual reality, Álvarez finished the book, which he titled “The cemetery of untold stories.” The 256-page work, which will be published in English and Spanish this week, has already appeared on several highly anticipated reading lists, including NBC’s. “Today” show and The New York Times.

“Puzzling, compelling and often ironically funny,” the trade publication Shelf awareness has summarized the novel. “Julia Álvarez offers a lyrical meditation that invites reflection on truth, complicated family narratives, and the question of whose stories are being told.”

For the author, it is also a way of living the last phrase of one of her favorite poems: “Practice the resurrection.”

‘Looking for narratives that help us’

From the beginning, Álvarez has written books that he has not found anywhere else. Fleeing the Dominican Republic at age 10 after her father was part of a failed plot to overthrow its dictator, she turned her family’s experience into the first semi-autobiographical novel “How the García Girls Lost Their Accents.” “.

“When I submitted my manuscript, multicultural books didn’t exist,” she recalled of her 1991 story, told from the perspective of a Caribbean immigrant.

Álvarez, who received the National Medal of Arts from President Barack Obama in 2014, has built a prolific career writing novels, nonfiction, and poetry that fill in other gaps.

When the Addison County resident began translating for Spanish-speaking immigrant farmworkers who moved to Vermont at the turn of the millennium, she saw how locals and Latinos struggled to understand each other.

“Everyone was baffled,” recalled the author, who clarified the issue in her 2009 novel “Return to Sender.”

As Alvarez mourned the deaths of his parents and sister, a question whispered in his mind: “Where are they going?” It became the title of Álvarez’s 2016 children’s book that addresses the emotional effects of such deaths.

“It struck me that the older you get, the fewer answers you have,” explained Álvarez. “People think that writers write things because they know things. I write to understand and make sense of what I face in my own life. I want to solve things. Writing is how I find my way.”

In a recent Literary Center round table In “Writing ‘Women of a Certain Age,’” the author noted how life was full of “bardin liminal, intermediate states, neither caterpillar nor butterfly, with the jury still out on who or what will emerge or not emerge at all.”

Bard States are ready for mock selection,” he continued. “That said, I confess that they are not very fun to live through! All that confusion, that commotion, the abyss that opens at my feet. So it may actually be a fertile time to write, as I will do anything to get out of there.”

And so, with the arrival of Covid-19 in 2020, Álvarez began his latest book.

“I increasingly felt this ageism in a lot of literature, where the older people signed their wills and died on the first page and then the story really begins with the young people,” he told VTDigger. “As I get older, I’m interested in really complex and vital older female protagonists. As our baby boom generation ages, I think more and more of us are looking for narratives to help us make sense of this time in our lives.”

In “The Cemetery of Untold Stories,” the character of Alma, like Álvarez, is a writer who faces her final years with voluminous archives of unfinished works.

…The problem was that the impulse to write was still within her. And if she didn’t bring it up, would he destroy her like she had done with her friend? It wasn’t like she had a choice. But one thing she could choose: after spending decades shaping the lives of characters, Alma wanted to close the story of her own life as a writer in a satisfying way.

‘If you’re lucky to live long enough’

Álvarez’s new novel is full of questions. Whose stories are told and whose stories are not? What is a fact and what is a product of a writer’s imagination?

“When you tell a true story, it already contains elements of fiction,” said the author. “You have a point of view, that is, your own. You’re highlighting some characters and ignoring others. And every time you tell it, they review it.”

Álvarez, for example, asked his sisters to tell him about the day they fled their former homeland.

“One told the story of how a car showed up and we all got inside and had to push it down the driveway so the secret police wouldn’t hear it,” the author said.

The rest of the family laughed. They knew it was a scene from “The Sound of Music.”

“We saw it shortly after our emigration,” said the author. “That movie captured something about how my sister felt about terror, so it became what happened to us.”

In Álvarez’s latest novel, the main character buries his unfinished work in a cemetery in the hopes of burying it.

The author didn’t have to think much to create those discarded stories.

“I picked up pieces of my manuscripts that never came to fruition,” he said.

But just as those seemingly forgotten pages have found new life in the book, the thoughts and feelings they embody emerge at the end in unexpected ways.

“There is a saying that protesters often quote: ‘They tried to bury us, they didn’t know we were seeds,’” Alvarez said. “Stories never die. “They wait in silence to be told.”

Calling the result a “finely crafted novel,” Kirkus Reviews notes that “his gifts for brilliant prose and powerful narrative remain strong.”

With a committed vision, Álvarez will limit his comings book tour – although it is ready to appear in Manchester, MiddleburyEdit and Montpellier to support local independent bookstores in her home state, where the once daughter of the Caribbean has adapted to the cooler climate.

“People say the two places are diametrically opposed, but the cultures and value systems of both remind me of each other,” he told this reporter in a 2012 interview. “Vermont is a small-town state where Helping others is still very important. “People think it should be in Miami or the southwest, but I can’t think of a more Dominican state than Vermont.”

Alvarez went on to point out how the Vermont Institute of Natural Sciences was grateful when she and her husband, retired ophthalmologist Bill Eichner, planted shade trees on their 60-acre former Dominican coffee farm.

“The Bicknell’s thrush that summers in the Green Mountains spends the winter in those trees,” he said. “Even the little bird knows that we are connected.”

However, as spring returns, Alvarez’s flights of fancy now require prismatic lenses and a slower pace.

“It has changed my life,” he said of his vision problems. “But as a doctor told me: ‘Julia, the eye is not going to get better, but you will.’”

The writer has found similar inspiration in lines from Wendell Berry’s book. poem “Manifesto: The Mad Farmers Liberation Front”.

… Be cheerful

even if you have considered all the facts…

She especially appreciates the poem’s conclusion: Practice resurrection.

“Those of us who live in a four-season state like Vermont know this,” he said. “After the outbreak of winter, these light-filled days come and the robins return and there are tiny snowdrops on the grass. As you get older, little deaths happen all the time, if you’re lucky to live long enough and survive them.”

Therefore, when Álvarez is asked if he will continue writing, his response is forceful.

“I am breathing?” she will practically scream. “I may have to change the way I do it, but this is not my last book, or so I hope. “I am not yet ready to join my characters in the graveyard of untold stories.”



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