She was bom on March 27,1950, in New York City, the oldest of four sisters, and moved with her family to the Dominican Republic shortly after her birth. When she was ten, her family left for the United States. Her mother Julia and her father Eduardo Alvarez Perello, a physician, were forced to flee from the Do-minican Republic after his involvement in a plot to overthrow the dictator Rafael Trujillo. She is part of a generation of Latino writers whose cultural consciousness reflects both her early years in the United States and a recollection of her parents' nostalgia for their island home. Alvarez remembers her early years growing up in the United States and her struggle to feel comfortable in the new culture one where, as a child, her family's language and appearance caused her some degree of embarrassment.