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    Beth Alvarado

    writer & teacher

  • Novel Cover Art Jillian

    a cycle of rather dark tales

    Black Lawrence Press

    With the ecstatic knowledge of an ancient curandera and the playful, storytelling prowess of a child, Alvarado travels great distances, bears witness, presages problems, and intuits solutions. She isn’t just at the forefront of white writers writing about race, she’s at the forefront of people writing about what it means to be human and how we might survive our own dangerous shortcomings. Masterful and original, her voice has been here since the before-time; in a world that needs healing and vision more than ever, it would behoove us all to listen.

    ~Jennifer Tseng, Mayumi and the Sea of Happiness

    Novel Cover Art Anxious Attachments

    Autumn House Press

    Praise for Anxious Attachments, winner of the Oregon Book Award and long-listed for PEN/Diamonstein-Spievogel Award for the Art of the Essay

    Alvarado’s gorgeous essays evoke the fluidity and awe of an underwater journey. She offers us a tour of grief—its causes, its cultural conditions, its grasp. In delineating, with devotion, with humor, losses that are at once ordinary and extraordinary, material and supernatural, she offers the reader a chance to better see what’s right in front of them. This book is an act of generosity, of friendship, of remembrance. I felt my head turned by it, encouraged to see my everyday loves with wider eyes.

    ~Aisha Sabatini Sloan, Dreaming of Ramadi in Detroit.

    Novel Cover Art Anthrolpologies

    University of Iowa Press

    Praise for Anthropologies

     

    ‘Memory is a silent room, a home movie from an old Brownie camera,’ Beth Alvarado writes. Her memoir, Anthropologies, suggests otherwise: there is little silence here. Instead everything is sound and light: story stacked up on story, memory on dream, aperture after aperture opening and staying open, recording past the final page. Anthropologies offers us the eternal present tense of memory: all our lives and our families’ lives existing at once, like the voice of her father, preserved on her mother’s answering machine and now here with many others in this lovely echo chamber of a book.

    ~Ander Monson, Vanishing Point

    Novel Cover Art Not a Matter of Love

    New Rivers Press

    Praise for Not a Matter of Love winner of the Many Voices Project

    Alvarado’s is a formidable talent, wise and witty and unflinching. To read her fiction is to understand two terrible truths: that humans hardly ever understand each other, and that we will persist relentlessly in an attempt to do so. This is serious, beautiful work.

    ~Antonya Nelson, Bound

  • About Me

    I am the author of four books. Jillian in the Borderlands: A Cycle of Rather Dark Tales has launched! Anxious Attachments won the Oregon Book Award for Creative Nonfiction and was long listed for the PEN/Diamonstein-Spievogel Award for the Art of the Essay. My two earlier books are Anthropologies: A Family Memoir; and Not a Matter of Love and other stories, which won the Many Voices Prize. In 2020, I won an Oregon Literary Career Fellowship.

     

     

    For much of my life, I lived in Tucson, Arizona, with my late husband, Fernando, our two children, and our large extended family. I now live in Oregon and teach for OSU-Cascades' Low Residency MFA Program. My essays and stories have been published in many fine journals and three essays have been chosen as Notable in Best American Essays.

  • Announcements

     

    Novelist Sarah Stone invited me to write a guest post for her blog the Marvelous Paragraph Project wherein I wrote about listening to voices and Karen Brennan's amazing collection Monsters.

     

    Thank you to G.P Gottlieb. This interview was a lot of fun!

    New Books Network.

     

    Listen Here to Reading with Tiffany Cates, author of M-Theory, Irene Cooper, author of Committal, and Brigitte Lewis, author of Origin Stories, for Grassroots Bookstore on March 5.

     

    Book launch for Tiffany Cate's M-Theory on March 2 at 6 p.m. Irene Cooper, Brigitte Lewis, and I will join Tiffany in celebrating the release of her book.

     

    I've been invited to read for Cinder Skies Reading Series; February 18, 7:30 MST. Here is more information and Facebook link!

     

    Small Press Picks picks Jillian in the Borderlands!!

    I feel so lucky! And grateful:

    "The stories in this inventive, emotionally resonant collection never shy away from darkness, and at times they plunge deeply into it. Yet, throughout, they offer glimmers of hope and a sense of possibility. In times like these, that has never felt more welcome."

     

    The Roadrunner Review chose Jillian in the Borderlands as one of its top five fiction titles for 2020!

     

    "Another Kind of Borderlands," an interview about Jillian in the Borderlands by Melanie Bishop is up at Fiction Writers Review: “I wrote out of a kind of homesickness, I guess, and out of a sickness of spirit over what was happening at the border, the dehumanization of children.”

     

    "In Conversation: Beth Alvarado and Frankie Rollins," wherein Frankie and I discuss grief and myth-making and our latest books is up at JMWW: "All the 'magical' things come from wishful thinking, maybe, are ways of keeping loved ones safe—and they have to be magical because, in reality, you are helpless."

     

    Jillian in the Borderlands was the October Book of the Month for the Book Club at The Rumpus!

     

    The Pre-Sale period for Jillian in the Borderlands Black Lawrence Press's Pre-Order Program has now ended. Please purchase from your local bookstore! I want to thank everyone who participated: I donated my commission from the Pre-Sale to the organization, No More Deaths.

     

    I am thrilled to announce that Anxious Attachments won the Oregon Book Award for Creative Nonfiction and was long listed for the PEN/Diamonstein-Spievogel Award for the Art of the Essay! The Oregon Book Awards called Anxious Attachments "a master class in the essay."

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Readings & Events

     

    Haunted Collection for Talyor_Swift_as_Books! My first Instagram Live reading -- with Adam O. Davis, Bruce Owens Grimm, and Leia Penina Wilson. Tonight! October 21, 6 p.m EST.

     

    Central Oregon Writers' Guild: Kelsey Freeman, author of No Option But North, and I will be talking about Writing Across Difference on June 8 and then on June 19, we will follow up with a three-hour workshop where we'll do writing exercises that explore ways of Building Bridges in your writing. You can attend one or both.

     

    Black Lawrence Reading Series! I read with Veronica Montes and Ron Nyren on May 25 at 8 p.m. EDT. You can listen here to my part of the reading.--just scroll down-- Veronica and Ron's readings, which were wonderful, are available on their book pages.

     

    Listen here to Reading with Tiffany Cates, author of M-Theory, Irene Cooper, author of Committal, and Brigitte Lewis, author of

    Origin Stories, for Grassroots Bookstore.

     

    Cinder Skies Reading Series; February 18, 7:30 MST. More information and Facebook link!

     

    The Rumpus Bookclub Chat,, a conversation with Marisa Siegel wherein she and I talk about the shifting perspectives in Jillian in the Borderlands: "Writing the book was like being at that cross-border dinner party where various people are telling parts of a story, and so there’s more than one language and sometimes people backtrack or take off on a tangent, and so you’re left to put the 'story' together yourself. "

     

    "Tell It Slant," a reading and conversation with members and alumni of the OSU-Cascades MFA Program: Jenna Goldsmith, Tiffany D. Cates, Yola Gomez, Brigitte Lewis, and Irene Cooper. October 29, 2020.

     

    Red Dragon Reading Series, SUNY Onenota. October 22, 7:30 p.m. EST.

     

    Reading and conversation with Ilana Masad, Listen here to The Other Stories Podcast, October 21.

     

    Reading with Luis Urrea and Pamela Uschuk: Experiencing Culture Across Genres: Pathways to Writing for Change. Colorado Mountain College, October 20, 2020, 6 p.m. MST. Link to register is here.

     

    "Twice Baked Tales," a reading and conversation about fabulism & food with Irene Cooper and Brigitte Lewis. Roundabout Books, September 18, 2020.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

  • Press & Reviews

    Small Press Picks picks Jillian in the Borderlands: "The stories in this inventive, emotionally resonant collection never shy away from darkness, and at times they plunge deeply into it. Yet, throughout, they offer glimmers of hope and a sense of possibility. In times like these, that has never felt more welcome."

     

    Review of Jillian in the Borderlands, by Kathryn Ordiway, in Masters Review: "Immediately, in the first tale, the reader is plunged into Jillian's world, a hallucinatory one of ghosts and eternal knowledge, but also a familiar one, filled with deportations and racial injustice and men girls are told to stay away from. . . There is not a moment in these stories where you don't feel the vein connecting Jillian's world to our own."

     

    In "Translating Hidden Histories" Lee Anne Gallaway-Mitchell writes "Alvarado’s use of many voices not only showcases her talent for dialogue but also challenges the tendency to make stories and histories of people and places linear and from a single perspective. In shifting narrators we get a kind of Canterbury Tales of the borderlands where each tale decenters both the occasional omniscient narrator and its guest storytellers." North American Review.

     

    "Looking for a Witch to Burn: a review of Jillian in the Borderlands" by Laura Eppinger from The Cardiff Review. "Jillian is an adult at the end of this novel, but she is not at the end of her journey: She will continue to cross national borders, aid refugees, and peek under the veil between the living and the dead.

     

    "Jillian in the Borderlands is an ambitious work that straddles geographical, metaphysical, and literary borders, marrying the social-justice novel with magical realism to render a disquieting portrait of the humanitarian toll of our immigration policies. In this era when the southern border is such a focal point of American politics, Alvarado focuses our attention on the liminal, warning us before we cross a boundary from which there is no return." Review by Alice Stephens in Washington Independent Review of Books.

     

    Advance praise for Jillian in the Borderlands:

     

    Relentlessly musical, heart-twisting, and haunted by the supernatural, Jillian in the Borderlands is a masterpiece of contemporary fabulist fiction. Told in a kaleidoscopic set of shifting points of view, these stories take readers to boundaries both geographic and metaphorical: between sickness and health, wonder and horror, the past and the present.

    ~Allegra Hyde, Of This New World

     

    In this lush and imaginative exploration of what makes us human, Alvarado conjures the twin energies of spirit and body, finding, in the face of political violence and its foul counterparts, our most urgent reasons for action and hope. While these are called dark tales, I find them genuinely uplifting, as Alvarado’s storytelling allows us access to the nexus for joy, in opposition.

    ~Aurelie Sheehan, Once into the Night

     

    With stunning buoyancy, these linked stories build a world of hope and magic, while challenging the hardships humans so often create for themselves. Alvarado has crafted a world one wants to sink into, full of empathy, sly humor, beauty and charm, while also looking directly at the question of what it means to be humans roaming the margins together.

    ~Monica Drake, The Stud Book

     

    Reviews of Anxious Attachments:

    • Melanie Bishop, March 2019, New York Journal of Books: "This whole book is a love song to Fernando."
    • Ellen Santasiero, May 2019, High Desert Journal: "I love many things about the essays, but a few things stand out in particular. First, Alvarado’s frequent references to mystery, whether through folk tales, stories of otherworldliness, or, most especially, dreams." 
    • Brigitte Lewis, May 2019, Entropy Magazine: "If we readers let ourselves, we will be changed by the words we have read, words that—through their mere attention—make sacred the mundane." 
    • Irene Cooper, June 2019, utterance: a journal: "With deep intelligence, a full heart, and prose that alternately beckons like your one truthful best friend and devastates like the monsoons that sweep her beloved Tucson. . ."
    • Averi Long, not-dated, The Literary Review: "Alvarado uses down-to-earth story-telling to explore human vulnerability, as well as the mysterious relationship between body and spirit."
    Reviews of Anthropologies:
    • Megan Kimble’s review in Sonora Review
    • From Kirkus Reviews: "[Alvarado] lays bare in these pages the many stories and details of her life and identity. Devoid of self-pity or nostalgia, Alvarado’s voice is bell-clear."
    • From Publishers Weekly: "Sparked by her mother’s deterioration into old age, Alvarado (Not a Matter of Love) has written a three-part memoir about her family life that approaches prose poetry."
    • Rebecca Hall in Front Porch Review: "Alvarado’s fictions are, in a manner reminiscent of Alice Munro, subtly metafictional. But Alvarado’s collages are all her own, made from the rough, ocotillo and saguaro-peppered stuff of the American Southwest."
    • Luke Reynolds in Tucson Weekly
     

    Essays & Stories

    recent, selected

    "On Listening to Voices" -- craft essay about Karen Brennan's work and my own -- for Sarah Stone's Marvelous Paragraph Project.

     

    "Sex after Death" -- essay -- in The Sun, July 2020.

     

    I've written a review essay! "Essays All: However We Decide to Collect Them" was published in River Teeth's on-line blog on May 4, 2021.

     

    From Jillian in the Borderlands:

    "Jillian Speaks," Terrain.org, July 2020

    “La Linea," Cleaver Magazine, Spring 2020.

     

    From Anxious Attachments:

    “Water in the Desert,” in Guernica, October 2015.

    “The Motherhood Poems,” which first appeared in Necessary Fiction & later was reprinted in New California Writing, 2011, Heydey Press, & in

    Notes from the Motherfield, Kore Press

     

    “Playlist for Anxious Attachments,” Largehearted Boy, Spring 2019.

     

    “When Your Daughter Refuses to Be in Your Essay,” LitHub, Spring 2019.

     

     

    Interviews

     

    "Another Kind of Borderlands," an interview about channeling voices and liminal realities in Jillian in the Borderlands. By Melanie Bishop in Fiction Writers Review.

     

    "In Conversation: Beth Alvarado and Frankie Rollins," wherein Frankie and I discuss grief and myth-making and our latest books: JMWW.

     

    The Rumpus Bookclub Chat: wherein Marisa Siegel and I talk about the shifting perspectives in Jillian in the Borderlands as well as teaching, mothering, and politics.

     

    "Q & A with Christi Craig" where we talk about Jillian in the Borderlands as being full of "reports and revelations" as well as politics and magic.

     

    "Q & A with Deborah Kalb" about, among other things, the mother/daughter relationship at the center of Jillian in the Borderlands.

     

    "Grieving in Dreams:" Two writers discuss "the apocalyptic imagination" grief, and the liminality of the borderlands. By Kimi Eisele in Guernica: A Magazine of Politics and Art. 2020.

     

    An interview about Anxious Attachments, wherein Irene Cooper and I discuss mothering, and auto-theory: "The narrator, the 'I,' is a construction. It’s an authentic voice, but it’s not really you. It’s who you are in the moment in relationship to that particular subject." The Rumpus. 2019.

     

    "Interview with Beth Alvarado" about Anthropologies by Megan Kimble in Sonora Review. 2011.

     

    "An Interview with Beth Alvarado" about "Emily's Exit" from Not a Matter of Love. University of Arizona Poetry Center. 2006.

     

    Audio & Video

     

    This conversation with G.P Gottlieb about Jillian in the Borderlands was a lot of fun! She kept asking surprising questions & I kept saying, well, that really happened, . .and now, maybe, I need a new definition of Magical Realism.

    New Books Network.

     

    Black Lawrence Reading Series, Summer 2021. You can listen here to my part of the reading.--just scroll down-- Veronica Montes and Ron Nyren's readings, which were wonderful, are available on their book pages.

     

    Reading and conversation about Jillian in the Borderlands with Ilana Masad, The Other Stories Podcast, 2020.

     

    "Tell It Slant," a reading and conversation with Jenna Goldsmith, Tiffany D. Cates, Yola Gomez, Brigitte Lewis, and Irene Cooper. 2020.

     

    "A Novel Idea" wherein Ellen Santasiero and I talk about writing memoir for Deschutes Public Library. 2020.

     

    "Water in the Desert," YouTube, Narrow Chimney Reading Series, Flagstaff, Arizona. 2016.

     

    "In Conversation with Beth Alvarado” an interview with Sheila Bender on writing memoir for political action. WritingItReal. 2015.

     

    From Anthropologies, a reading for University of Arizona Poetry Center. 2011.

     

    From Not a Matter of Love , a reading for University of Arizona Poetry Center. 2006.