Her work The Ladies" Gallery: A Memoir of Family Secrets was a Philadelphia Inquirer and Detroit Free Press notable book of the year, a finalist for the Mind Book of the Year Award and the Latino Book Award. Her memoir, Impossible Motherhood: Testimony of an Abortion Addict, revealed that the author had 15 abortions in 17 years. Vilar received death threats after its publication.
Vilar previously worked as an acquisitions editor for Women and Jewish studies at Syracuse University Press.
From 2002 to 2005, she was the founding series editor of The Americas book series published by the University of Wisconsin Press. Presently she is a series editor at Texas Technical University Press.
In 2010, she was named a Guggenheim Fellow.