“I write to find out what I’m thinking. I write to find out who I am.
I write to understand things.”
“The world changed for me through the power of storytelling.”
“Are our stories only little products of entertainment to escape reality — or
are they calls to action?”
The “Big Read” — what a fabulous idea! All around the country, communities of people young and old join together to read the same book and to share their feelings and insights about it. This year’s choice was the tragic and inspiring novel, In the Time of the Butterflies, by Julia Alvarez. In her story, Julia captures the lives of the three Mirabel sisters — Minerva, Patria, and Maria Teresa — who fought oppression in the Dominican Republic of Trujillo and died on November 25, 1960 under mysterious circumstances.
Known as the “butterflies,” the three sisters have become a global symbol of heroic defiance and of the ongoing fight to end domestic violence against women. But until Julia told their story, few people outside of the Dominican Republic knew of their courage or their tragic end. Julia spent years researching their lives and shaping her tale, which began as a nonfiction account and ended up as a novel. She was aided by the memories and determination of Dede, the sole surviving sister in the family, who kept telling her, “Write it down, Julia. Write it down!”
And write she did — and gave the Mirabel sisters’ story to the world. Julia talked about how Butterflies came to be in a lively Skype interview in our local library. She talked about researching the book, her decision to capture the character and personalities of the three sisters novelistically, and how she came to writing through family storytelling and reading.
But most of all, she talked about how “the life and the writing flow out of each other” — and how she came to realize the power of storytelling in the world. As she said so well: “Think about it. Think about the power of a story spreading across the world, mobilizing people to want to end violence against women”…”At some point as a writer, you have to ask yourself, ‘Am I just going to create these beautiful objects in the gated community of my imagination — or am I going to do something?’ That’s the power of story — to remind us that we’re all connected and that there’s a bigger world than the world of the self.” “One candle lights another. You read a book, you feel inspired, you do a little something. I have to believe that we can change things. It’s my debt to the Mirabel sisters.” Bravo, Julia! Write on!