sunday bear: julia alvarez

“Cornellia” by Barbara Whisnant (German distressed mohair, antique baby dress, 1989)



Woman’s Work
by Julia Alvarez

for Judy Yarnall

Who says a woman’s work isn’t high art?
She challenged as she scrubbed the bathroom tiles.
Keep house as if the address were your heart.

We cleaned the whole upstairs before we started
downstairs. I sighed, hearing my friends outside.
Doing her woman’s work was a hard art

to practice when the summer sun would bar
the floor I swept till she was satisfied.
She kept me prisoner in her housebound heart.

She shined the tines of forks, the wheels of carts,
cut lacy lattices for all her pies.
Her woman’s work was nothing less than art.

And I, her masterpiece since I was smart,
was primed, praised, polished, scolded, and advised
to keep a house much better than my heart.

I did not want to be her counterpart!
I struck out . . . but became my mother’s child:
a woman working at home on her art,
housekeeping paper as if it were her heart.

~ from She Walks in Beauty: A Woman’s Journey Through Poems, edited and introduced by Caroline Kennedy (Hyperion, 2011).


♥  Today’s Sunday Bear Hug is brought to you by Mr. Cornelius, who is eating three extra cream scones today in honor of mothers everywhere, past and present. Have a beautiful Mother’s Day, everyone!



Copyright © 2012 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

8 thoughts on “sunday bear: julia alvarez

  1. I so love Cornellia’s antique baby dress and do I see a cute little pin there as well? She looks very prim and thoughtful here. I also love your poem selection, had I known about Julia Alvarez, I would have included her among the llst of female poets we featured during our previous bimonthly theme on Girl Power and Women’s Wiles. The anthology “She Walks in Beauty” also sounds great. I was wondering, Jama, if you’d be able to recommend any poetry books that speak about the immigrant experience? Let me know if you have any thoughts in mind so I can search for those in our libraries. 🙂 Oh yeah, I featured Dumpling Soup in my mailbox today. 🙂


    1. What sharp eyes — Cornellia is actually wearing two little pins. The round one says, “Be Healthy. Eat Your Honey,” and the other has the name of her creator’s company, “Babears.”

      The anthology of female poets edited by Caroline Kennedy is lovely — there are groupings according to life stages, like “Falling in Love,” “Marriage,” “Work,” “Motherhood,” “Growing up and Growing Old,” and “Friendship.” It’s a mix of classical and contemporary poetry.

      Other than Cathy Song’s work, I can’t think of any other poetry books addressing the immigrant experience offhand; surely there must be some. Are you looking more for children’s poetry?

      Thanks for the DS feature!!


  2. I just had the pleasure of seeing Julia Alvarez speak a couple of weeks ago, Jama. She was amazing. I got to meet her & had her autograph a book for our school library and her new one, A Wedding In Haiti, for me. Thank you for the poem-beautiful for mother’s day!


  3. What a lovely post! Though not poetry, Julia Alvarez’s young-adult fiction does a wonderful job of highlighting the immigrant experiences of young children. I recently read RETURN TO SENDER and thought it a greatly illuminating read because it exposed the difficulties that immigrant children and their families encounter as well as it beautifully balanced those against the struggles of American children and their families. You can’t go wrong with Alvarez. Her author’s website is also quite good.


    1. Thanks for the lovely comment! Julia has been on my radar for awhile, but I haven’t had time to fully explore her work further. Hope to read more during the summer. 🙂


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