Award: Artist Research & Development Grant
Discipline: Literary Arts
Project Collaborator(s):
City/Town: Chandler
Year: 2018
Artist Website:

In writing this novel, I aim to offer my readers a better understanding of what it means to be a Guatemalan immigrant woman with the force of two cultures, two histories, and two languages empowering her words.

Born in Guatemala but raised from a young age in Arizona, María Isabel Alvarez sees her life as “one of duality where I am neither fully American nor fully Guatemalan, but a melding of the two.” In writing short stories, flash fiction, and now a novel-in-progress, Alvarez aims to narrow the gap between these two worlds.

Her Research & Development Grant will support research toward the writing of The Quiet Yellowing of Birds, a magical realist novel set in both Guatemala and Arizona. Written in two parts, one representing the country the author left behind and the other speaking to the experience of Guatemalan immigrants in the United States, the book will explore wifehood, motherhood, and femininity as embodied by Guatemalan immigrant women.

Read “War” by María Isabel Alvarez
Originally published in the literary journal, Arts & Letters

“War” is a short about one woman’s journey from Central America to the United States as she searches for some semblance of home.

Read “Portrait of Exile at Elementary School Cafeteria”  by María Isabel Alvarez
Originally published in Columbia Journal

“Portrait of Exile at Elementary School Cafeteria” is a flash fiction story about the feeling of being “othered” as told through the eyes of a child.

Born in Guatemala and raised in Arizona, María Isabel Alvarez graduated from the Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing program at Arizona State University, where she taught fiction workshops and received a Graduate Excellence Award, an MFA Writing Scholarship, a University Travel Grant to present an academic paper at the 14th Annual Hawaii International Conference on Arts & Humanities, and several University Graduate Fellowships. Her fiction has been published in Black Warrior Review, Sonora Review, Gulf Coast, Arts & Letters, Puerto del Sol, Columbia Journal, and elsewhere.

Photo by Ernesto L. Abeytia

Banner photos: (left) María Isabel Alvarez. Photo by Ernesto L. Abeytia. (right) Market in Antigua, Guatemala. Photo by Pati Gaitan