Beth Alvarado

    writer & teacher

  • Novel Cover Art Jillian

    Black Lawrence Press

    "What to read when you want to celebrate Women's History,"

    The Rumpus.

    Praise for Jillian in the Borderlands

    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

    Longlisted for the PEN Art of the Essay Award & Winner of the Oregon Book Award

    Praise for Anxious Attachments

    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

    "Alvarado’s voice is bell-clear,"

    Kirkus Reviews.

    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

    Winner of the Many Voices Project Award.


    Praise for Not a Matter of Love

    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


    My recent book, Jillian in the Borderlands: A Cycle of Rather Dark Tales, is described by one reviewer as "marrying the social-justice novel with magical realism." Another reviewer 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 my nonfiction, I have written extensively about marrying into my late husband's family when I was 19 years old. My essay collection Anxious Attachments was long listed for the PEN Art of the Essay Award and won the 2020 Oregon Book Award for Creative Nonfiction. Taken together as a larger narrative, these essays are about the power of love to revise who we are, what we believe, and what our story is. It is now available on Audible.


    Much of my work is set in Tucson Arizona, where Fernando and I grew up and raised our children. My lyric memoir Anthropologies layers scenes, oral histories, and dreams from both his family and my own. My first story collection, Not a Matter of Love, won the Many Voices Project Prize for work that the final judge called "wise and witty and unflinching."


    I taught at the University of Arizona for many years and now am on the faculty at Oregon State University-Cascades Low Residency MFA Program. I am on the Advisory Board of JackLeg Press and the Editorial Board of Puro Chicanx Writing of the 21st Century, sponsored by Cutthroat: A Journal of the Arts and the BlackEarth Institute. In 2020, I was awarded an Oregon Literary Career Fellowship.

    I have decided to work as a consultant with a few writers a year. If you are interested, please see the final page of this website for information and then feel free to email me with questions at bethalvarado1@gmail.com.




  • announcements


    Anxious Attachments is available on Audible!


    "A Book for All Souls,"  my review of Victoria Garza's beautiful lyric memoir, The Field, is up at the Los Angeles Review!


    "Chocolate and Wine," my review of Joan Frank's essay

    collection Late Work, is up on River Teeth's blog.


    I interviewed Karen Brennan about Television, a memoir, from Four Way Books, and the result is "Gaps in the Telling,: A Conversation about Hybridity, Disability, Motherhood, and Class."  Los Angeles Review.


    My review of Ru Freeman's wonderful story collection, Sleeping Alone, just out from Graywolf, is up at NYJB!


    "How can we live with the constant threat of violence?" a review essay I wrote about Under These Dark Skies, a brilliant essay collection by Arianne Zwartjes, is out in High Country News.


    "Bloomsbury in Winter -- 2020," the first essay in Unreachable Cities, my collection-in-progress, is out in the Spring 2022 issue of Fourth Genre.


    "Meanwhile--Detroit, Philadelphia, & Tucson" is in the Belfield Literary Review from University College Dublin. This is only the second issue of this journal and it's called "The Long Journey."


    Excited that "Radical Solidarity" my review of Daisy Pitkin's stunning memoir about labor organizing, On the Line, in the Los Angeles Review!


    The Rumpus picked Jillian in the Borderlands for its October 2020 Book Club Chat & also for its list: "What to read when you want to celebrate Women's History," along with many other fine books. So happy for my work to be included with the work of so many authors I admire.


    Small Press Picks picked Jillian in the Borderlands! & The Roadrunner Review chose Jillian as one of its top five fiction titles for 2020!


    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!


    I am also honored to have been awarded a 2020

    Oregon Career Literary Fellowship.







    readings & events


    I am honored to deliver the 2024 Stegner Lecture at Lewis-Clark State College in Lewiston, Idaho, this April. While I'm there, I'll meet with students and the editorial class of Talking River Review, an amazing journal of writing and art.


    Glitterati Reading! I will be reading with so many wonderful writers on Saturday March 11, 2023, from 6-9 at The Rabbit Box Theatre in Pike Place Market in Seattle.


    At the Autumn House 25th Anniversary Reading, on Friday March 10, from 1:45- 3, I will be inside the Seattle Convention Center reading from Anxious Attahments. Again, I will be in the company of many other wornderful writers.


    Black Lawrence Press is also sponsoring a reading at AWP: Thursday from 7-10 at The Royal Room in Seattle. I am so happy to be included and will be reading from Jillian in the Borderlands.


    Haunted Collection for Talyor_Swift_as_Books! My first Instagram Live reading! October 21, 2021, 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, 2021, we will follow up with a three-hour workshop on 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. Veronica and Ron's readings 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 at Northern Arizona University. February 18, 2021, 7:30 MST. Facebook link!


    The Rumpus Bookclub Chat,, a conversation with Marisa Siegel wherein she and I talk about shifting perspectives in Jillian in the Borderlands.


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


    Red Dragon Reading Series, SUNY Onenota.


    Reading with Luis Urrea and Pamela Uschuk: Experiencing Culture Across Genres: Pathways to Writing for Change. Colorado Mountain College, October 20, 2020.


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


  • press & reviews

    reviews of Jillian in the Borderlands:


    Small Press Picks on 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. . ." North American Review.


    "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. . . ." Review by Alice Stephens in Washington Independent Review of Books.


    "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.



    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: "Anthropologies is a pile of perfectly ordered snapshots, so quickly and quietly stacked that soon the remembering becomes a world unto itself."


    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."



    reviews of Not a Matter of Love:


    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. "Alvarado reveals one of her greatest strengths as a writer: her ability to be inside a character's psyche. . .while remaining loyal, even omniscient, to the story as a whole."


    essays & stories 


    recent & selected:


    A link to the 2024 Stegner Lecture I gave at Lewis-Clark State College. This is part of "Santiago -- the Camino, a writer, & her son," an essay from my collection-in-progress, Unreachable Cities. 


    "Prague -- & why I could not get there," another essay from Unreachable Cities was beautifully paired with photographs in Journal of the Plague Years: The Magazine. Check out the playlist at the end!


    "On Listening to Voices" -- a craft essay about Karen Brennan's amazing story collection Monsters -- in novelist Sarah Stone's Marvelous Paragraph Project.


    "Sex after Death" -- essay -- in The Sun.


    "Essays All: However We Decide to Collect Them" This craft essay was published in River Teeth's on-line blog.


    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.


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



    interviews & conversations


    "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.


    "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:" Kimi Eisele and I discuss "the apocalyptic imagination" and the borderlands. Guernica: A Magazine of Politics and Art. 2020.


    An interview about Anxious Attachments, wherein

    Irene Cooper and I discuss mothering and auto-theory. 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


    And here is a link to the 2024 Stegner Lecture I gave at Lewis-Clark State College. I'm reading from a work -in-progress -- an essay from Unreachable Cities.


    Anxious Attachments is available on Audio Books! Along with all of these amazing books from Autumn House Press.


    In this conversation about Jillian in the Borderlands, G.P. Gottlieb 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.


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


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


    "Water in the Desert," from Anxious Attachments YouTube, Narrow Chimney Reading Series, Flagstaff, AZ, 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.


  • Consultations: Nonfiction, Fiction, Memoir, and Hybrid Prose

    I am interested in working with a few writers a year. I have forty years of experience teaching writing at the university level and can assist in all stages of the writing process from generating material to shaping and polishing it. I can also suggest and supply helpful readings and provide guidance on placing your work once it's ready.


    If you are interested in working with me, please send me an email at bethalvarado1@gmail.com. I will ask you to send a sample of your work to see if I think I would be a good fit for you. I do not write nor do I read much genre fiction, for instance, and so I would not be very helpful if you are writing suspense or science fiction unless it is character-based and rather literary. After I read your sample, we can talk about what shape a mentorship might take and how much it might cost.


    As a general rule, I charge $300 a session which includes reading 6500 words (of clean prose), providing both marginal and end comments, and an hour of conversation. This charge is a ball-park figure for both one-time consultations and on-going mentorships, but I can be flexible depending on factors we can discuss. One of those factors, of course, is my teaching and writing schedule. I want to be sure to have quality time to devote to your work.


    I have also facilitated small-group workshops on-line. If you are interested in something like that, let me know. I look forward to hearing from you!




    "Beth Alvarado is part teacher, part mentor, part oracle. If you’ll recall, the latter’s role is to provide guidance that helps the seeker unlock their next steps. Beth is a practical guide, providing feedback that helps a writer look at their own work from a different, more concrete and more expansive, angle. She communicates clearly and brings a depth of experience to mentoring writers. She helps me make my work better. Period."

    -Brigitte Lewis, author of Origin Stories and the forthcoming memoir, Speculative Histories


    "Beth Alvarado brought a voracious curiosity to my project resulting in a much deeper exploration of my second novel-in-progress than I could’ve imagined. To work alongside someone truly interested in your own vision yet expertly capable of expanding that vision is a rare treat. I’ve enjoyed her small group sessions as well as our one-on-one discussions. Highly recommend!" - R. Cathey Daniels, author of Live Caught