NEA Big Read
In the Time of the Butterflies

In the Time of the Butterflies

by Julia Alvarez

I found in literature a place where the table was set for all. Everybody was welcome. I found true democracy in reading.

Teachers may consider the ways in which these activities may be linked to other Big Read community events. Most of these projects could be shared at a local library, a student assembly, or a bookstore.

  1. Devote a day to the cultural world of In the Time of the Butterflies. Display illustrations of the styles of dress and architecture of the Dominican Republic in the middle of the 20th century; play recordings of music by Dominican composers; give poetry readings from Spanish-speaking writers in both the original Spanish and an accompanying English translation.
  2. Show the 2001 film adaptation of the novel produced by and starring Salma Hayek. After viewing it, discuss the ways in which it is faithful to the novel and, especially, the ways in which it takes liberties. Is it a successful film? Why or why not? Can a successful film be made from this book?
  3. Stage an in-class production of In the Time of the Butterflies. Have interested students work with a theater teaching artist to adapt scenes of the novel. Other students might create stage sets for each scene. Perform these scenes at a school assembly or Big Read event.
  4. Have the students create a photo gallery of the Dominican Republic. Include people, activities, and scenes (illustrating both buildings and landscapes). Display the gallery in the classroom or school library. Feature Finca alta Gracia, the organic coffee farm that Julia Alvarez supports with her husband, Bill Eichner.
  5. If you are studying this novel in the fall, ask your students to organize a rally on November 25, or to join a local organization or attend an event that does. If it is a spring semester, students may find an event that honors women during March, which is Women's History Month. Students may also volunteer at a literacy center, giving a few hours of their time as a way to honor the legacy of the Mirabal sisters.
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