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RETURN TO SENDER, a novel, ages ten and up (and up!), by Julia Alvarez


a novel
by Julia Alvarez
(Knopf Books for Children,
January 2009)

Further Research

Anyone wanting to do further research on migrant workers, I am including highlights from a long list of books, films, articles I consulted in writing my novel.

Our Vermont station, WCAX-TV, did a wonderful series on the migrant workers on vermont farms, entitled, "The Secret Lives of Foreign Workers," November 2008, well worth viewing at

Another series from a totally different area of the country focused on a particular story of Yolanda, a twelve-year old girl abducted to the United States by an undocumented Mexican migrant worker and held hostage for years. Her story provided the basis for what happens to the mother in RETURN TO SENDER.

"Yolanda's Crossing," in Dallas Morning News, December 17-24, 2006,


I found these articles and studies on the impact of deportation and uncertainty on children of migrant workers very helpful:

"The Lost Children" by Margaret Talbot, THE NEW YORKER, March 3, 2008,

"Paying the Price: The Impact of Immigration Raids on America's Children," a study done by the Urban Institute, October 31, 2007, available at

Other great articles I found very useful:

"The Shame of Postville, Iowa," NEW YORK TIMES, July 13, 2008, which provides a link to the eye-opening essay by essay by Erik Camayd-Freixas, who was involved as a translator for ICE after the raid of Agriprocessors, Inc., in Iowa,

"Exodus" by Charles Bowden and Julian Cardona in ORION, July/August 2008,

"Promises of El Norte," in A COMMON PLACE, November/December 2006, publication of the Mennonite Central Committee, this whole issue was devoted to Mexican immigration,

"Field Notes," by David Hassler, photos by Gary Harwood, THE SUN, November 2006,

"Mexicans in America," by Richard Rodríguez, lead essay in Cato Unbound, August 14, 2006,

For further reading/viewing:

Books on farming:

Kingsolver, Barbara, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life (New York: HarperCollins, 2007).

Pistorius, Alan, Cutting Hill: A Chronicle of a Family Farm (New York: Alfred A.Knopf, 1990).

Pollan, Michael, The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals (New York: Penguin Press, 2006).

Price Graff, Nancy, The Strength of the Hills: A Portrait of a Family Farm (New York: Little Brown, 1989)

Smith, Nicola, Harvest: A Year in the Life of an Organic Farm (Guilford, CT.: The Lyons Press, 2004).

On Immigration:

Conover, Ted, Coyotes: A Journey Through the Secret World of America's Illegal Aliens (New York: Vintage Books, 1987).

Gill, Hannah, Going to Carolina del Norte: Narrating Mexican Migrant Experiences (Chapel Hill: University Center for International Studies, 2006).

Hickey, Maeve, and Lawrence Taylor, Tunnel Kids (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2001).

Nazario, Sonia, Enrique's Journey: The Story of a Boy's Dangerous Odyssey to Reunite with His Mother (New York: Random House, 2006).

Martínez, Rúben, Crossing Over: A Mexican Family on the Migrant Trail (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2001).

Pérez, Ramón "Tianguis," Diary of an Undocumented Immigrant (Houston: Arte Publico Press, 1991).

Urrea, Luis Alberto, The Devil's Highway (New York: Little, Brown, 2004).

Books for young readers that address immigration issues:

Atkin, S. Beth, Voices from the Fields: Children of Migrant Farmworkers Tell Their Stories (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1993). Jaramillo, Ann, La Línea (New York: Roaring Brook Press, 2006).

Will Hobbs, Crossing the Wire (New York: Harper Collins, 2007).

Jiménez, Francisco, Breaking Through (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2001).

Jiménez, Francisco, The Circuit (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1997).

Muñoz Ryan, Pam, Esperanza Rising (New York: Scholastic Press, 2000).

Videos & Films


Troubled Harvest: four-part series: the people, the market, the tools, the future.

Measured Furrows: Vermont's farming history: A production of Vermont ETV; producer, Enzo DiMaio; associate producer, Chris Sariego; director, Neil Hilt; writer, Nancy Price Graff.

Where The Milk Comes From: East Hardwick, VT, TopView Productions, c1994.

Let's Go To The Farm: written by Mac Parker; produced & directed by Ed Dooley. Vergennes, VT: Vermont Story Works, c1994. Great for young viewers.

Under the Cloak of Darkness: by Bjorn Jackson (2008), a feature-length documentary about the plight of Mexican workers and Vermont farmers right here in my county. This film introduces many of the workers and farmers who directly inspired RETURN TO SENDER,


el Norte, directed by Gregory Nava (1984)

The Visitor, Thomas McCarthy (2007)

Under the Same Moon, Patricia Riggen (2007)

Inspiring Songs

Anyone wanting to hear the song "La Golondrina," which is alluded to often in the novel, can buy it for 99 cents. I love the version by Caetano Veloso on his CD FINA ESTAMPA.

I also love the song "Who's Going to Build Your Wall" by Tom Russell, great lyrics, makes you want to get up and march in support of immigrant rights. You can buy the song for 99 cents or listen to him on YouTube: Cambridge Folk Fest, 2006 & a music video featuring the photography of David Burckhalter.

Inspiring Images

Caleb Kenna's images of migrant workers and their families here on Vermont Farms will help readers visit with the folks who were an inspiration to me. These photos along with testimonies collected by Chris Urban were exhibited at the Vermont Folklife Center, "The Golden Cage: Mexican Migrant Workers and Vermont Dairy Farmers." Look through the photographs and listen to the interviews at For an overview of the show, check out the 5 minute audio slide show.

boys playing in the field -- photo by Caleb Kenna,
a farmer's son and a migrant worker's son playing together in the field
Mexican mamá milking with baby -- photo by Caleb Kenna,
Mexican mamá milking with baby

Web-based teaching resources:
The Center for Global Initiatives

This information was provided by Carolyn Shapiro.
The American Friends Service Committee has a section of their website devote to immigrants' right in the United States
The website of the National Immigration Forum includes:
Press Releases: Official statements and releases.
Facts on Immigration: Highlights thoughtful press and commentary on immigration and immigration reform.
Backgrounders, Issue Briefs, and Legislative Analysis: Advocacy materials available for downloading to help you make the case for fair and generous immigration policies.
Immigration Reform Resources: An annotated bibliography with links to research and materials (produced by the Forum and others) to help make the case for comprehensive immigration reform.
15-page fact sheet on migration from Mexico through March 2007 prepared by the Pew Hispanic Center.

Teachable Moment website presents free, timely topical activities and lesson plans for the K - 12 classroom offered by the nonprofit Educators for Social Responsibility. These include:
Teaching Social Responsibility. Suggestions for guiding students through a class project on an issue they care about--including a student activity that shines a light on group process.
Teaching Critical Thinking: The Believing Game & the Doubting Game. These two processes offer an opportunity to think rigorously without polarization and to embrace contradictions that normally divide us.
Presidential Election 2008: Our Broken Immigration System. Students are invited to examine the candidates' recent 'debate' over giving undocumented immigrants driver's licenses; learn some facts about immigration; and consider an historical commentary. Discussion questions and a suggested inquiry into a new immigration policy follow.
Teaching for Change online catalog offers hundreds of carefully selected books, films, and posters for teaching from a social justice perspective.

RETURN TO SENDER, a novel, ages ten and up (and up!), by Julia Alvarez

Click for an excerpt & the soundtrack behind RETURN TO SENDER...
Book Summary...
& News Stories from Vermont.

Julia Alvarez reads from RETURN TO SENDER on

Author Interviews: listen on KUER...
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Get a Teachers Guide from Teachers @ Random (click PDF below PDF ATTACHMENT).

see this book on hardcover  *  paperback  *  Audio CD  *  en español
or get an autographed copy at Middlebury College Bookstore or Vermont Book Shop
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More Books by Julia Alvarez

The Best Gift of All: The Legend of La Vieja Belén/El mejor regalo del mundo: la leyenda de La Vieja Belén
The Best Gift of All:
The Legend of
La Vieja Belén/
El mejor regalo del mundo:
la leyenda de
La Vieja Belén
Once Upon A Quinceañera: Coming of Age in the USA by Julia Alvarez
Once Upon A Quinceañera
How the García Girls Lost Their Accents by Julia Alvarez
How the García Girls Lost Their Accents

Autographed Books by Julia Alvarez

Would you like a signed -- or personalized -- copy of one of Julia's books? Simply call or email one of her two local bookstores -- or stop in for a visit.

Vermont Book Shop
38 Main Street, Middlebury, Vermont

Middlebury College Store
58 Hepburn Road, Middlebury, Vermont
Contact Georgia Best

And, of course, Julia would love to see you at one of her upcoming appearances. To see if she will be in your town, check her calendar.


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