Tales of ‘Tia Lola’ bridge cultural gap for young Hispanic New Yorkers | NY Daily News

BY Heidi Evans

Photo: Jeanne Noonan | NY Daily News

To hear writer Julia Alvarez tell it, she was a “terrible” student, until her sixth grade teacher had an inspired idea.

She told the Dominican-American girl: “If you don’t find people like you in your books, write your own books!”

Alvarez took the challenge to heart. And decades later, the beloved character “Tia Lola” was born – an eccentric Dominican aunt who comes to visit her recently divorced niece and kids in Vermont and then never leaves.

“I rolled all my crazy aunts into one Tia Lola,” she recently told a spellbound audience of 150 Spanish- and English-speaking schoolkids at the Malcolm X & Betty Shabazz Memorial & Educational Center in Washington Heights.

The youngsters burst out laughing in recognition as she told stories about her zany childhood in the Dominican Republic. And they listened quietly as the best-selling author shared some important lessons for Hispanic children who live in New York City and straddle two cultures.

“At first it was hard, I felt like I didn’t belong in America,” said Alvarez, who was born at Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital, then moved back to the Dominican Republic as an infant, and returned to New York when she was 10. “This teacher showed me that the world of imagination is where everyone is welcome.

Read more: Tales of ‘Tia Lola’ bridge cultural gap for young Hispanic New Yorkers   – NY Daily News.

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