Books: Fiction

In the Time of the Butterflies

Book — Fiction. By Julia Alvarez. 2010. 352 pages.
The story of Las Mariposas — “The Butterflies” — is about four sisters and their tragic deaths under Trujillo’s dictatorship in the Dominican Republic.
Time Periods: 1945, 1961
Themes: Imperialism, US Foreign Policy, World History/Global Studies

On November 25, 1960, the bodies of three convent-educated sisters were found near their wrecked Jeep at the bottom of a 150-foot cliff on the north coast of the Dominican Republic. El Caribe, the official newspaper, reported their deaths as an accident and did not mention that a fourth sister lived. Nor did it explain that the sisters were among the leading opponents of Gen. Raphael Leonidas Trujillo’s dictatorship. It did’t have to. Everyone knew of Las Mariposas — “The Butterflies.”

book cover showing sketch of woman's face with a sketch of a butterfly overlapping her.

Author Julia Alvarez, also a daughter of the Dominican Republic and long haunted by these sisters, immerses us in a tangled and dangerous moment in Hispanic Caribbean history to tell their story in the only way it can truly be understood — through fiction. In this brilliantly characterized novel, the voices of all four sisters — Minerva, Patria, Maria Teresa, and Dede — speak across the decades, to tell their own stories — from hair ribbons to gunrunning to prison torture — and to describe the everyday horrors of life under Trujillo’s rule.

The Butterflies were extraordinary women. Minerva, once the object of the dictator’s desire, had dared to publicly slap his face. Devout Patria found her calling to the uprising through the church. Alluring — and vain — Maria Teresa joined in pursuit of romance. Only Dede, the practical one, the most diligent in her duty to family and tradition, kept apart. And only she survived to see that their names were remembered. Now, through the art and magic of Julia Alvarez’s imagination, the martyred Butterflies live again. And Dede joins them as a heroine of equal courage. [Adapted from publisher’s description.]

ISBN: 9781565129764 | Algonquin Books

Related Teaching Story

The Hero’s Human Heart: Teaching Julia Alvarez’s In the Time of Butterflies” by S. J. Childs (Rethinking Schools)

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