The Big Read Blog (Archive)


Washington, DC

Today The Big Read blog features a guest post by NEA Big Read literature staffer Molly Thomas-Hicks.

November 25th is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. Forty-nine years ago today, off a lonely mountain road in the Dominican Republic, three sisters were murdered because they dared to rebel against the brutal dictatorship of Rafael Leónidas Trujillo. The women?s sacrifice inspired Julia Alvarez to write In the Time of the Butterflies, the newest title added to The Big Read.  A work of historical fiction, the novel honors the lives of Patria, Minerva, and María Teresa Mirabal, who became icons of freedom and women?s rights after their assassination in the autumn of 1960.

The murders of the three women inspired many in the Dominican Republic to denounce the regime publicly and marked the beginning of the end for Trujillo?s reign. The date of the Mirabal sisters? deaths became recognized throughout Latin America as a day to end violence against women, and in 1999 the United Nations General Assembly designated November 25th as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. The United Nations website explains:

The sisters. . .have become a symbol against victimization of women. They have become the symbol of both popular and feminist resistance. They have been commemorated in poems, songs and books. Their execution inspired a fictional account, In the Time of the Butterflies, on the young lives of the sisters written by Julia Alvarez. It describes their suffering and martyrdom in the last days of the Trujillo dictatorship. The memory of the Mirabal sisters and their struggle for freedom and respect for human rights for all has transformed them into symbols of dignity and inspiration. They are symbols against prejudice and stereotypes, and their lives raised the spirits of all those they encountered and later, after their death, not only those in the Dominican Republic but others around the world.

 This Thanksgiving weekend, if you?re looking for a beautifully written book that will leave you counting even your smallest blessings, I encourage you to pick up In the Time of the Butterflies.  You?ll find a story that spreads its wings, pauses to breathe the air of freedom, and gently takes flight.      

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