Mia Alvar

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Mia Alvar
Occupation Writer
Language English
Nationality Philippines
Alma mater Harvard College, Columbia School of Arts
Notable works In the Country: Stories
Notable awards B&N Discover Great New Writers 2015[1]
NY Times Editors' Choice 2015[2]
PW Best Book of 2015[3]
Author's website

Mia Alvar is a Filipino-American writer based in New York. She won a PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for In the Country.


Alvar was born in Manila and at six moved to Bahrain with her parents, joining her uncle already living there. After four years in Bahrain, they moved to New York City, where her mother then began graduate school in special education at Columbia University.[4] She received her undergraduate degree at Harvard College in 2000 and earned her MFA from the School of Arts at Columbia University in 2007. While a senior in college, Alvar returned to the Philippines for the first time in ten years and began recording her experiences of Manila which provided material for her stories.[5][1]

Her critically regarded debut work, In the Country, features nine stories about exiled Filipino workers living in the Middle East and the United States who lead "morally messy" and "unpredictable" lives full of "contradictions and weaknesses".[6] These characters are part of the Philippine diaspora: workers dispersed around the globe for economic reasons to work as maids and nurses and in other jobs.[7] Alvar offers "deft portraits of transnational wanderers" who are "blessed and cursed with mobility," according to New York Times critic J. K. Ramakrishnan,[8] with a major theme in her work being the cultural conflicts of immigrants.[1]

Critic Maureen Corrigan on NPR described Alvar's writing style as gorgeous.[6] Ramakrishnan compared her characters to ones written by Nadine Gordimer.[8] Chicago Tribune critic Amy Gentry described Alvar's prose as "precise and patient" with a gift for "grounded human-scale metaphors".[7] Christian Science Monitor critic Steve Donoghue described Alvar's talent as the "smart depiction of lives lived between two worlds" offering "vivid glimpses of street life in Manila."[9] In the Country won numerous awards, including the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize,[10] the Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers list,[1] and was listed as a New York Times "Editors' Choice" book.[2] In 2016, In the Country received the Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize, only the second short story collection to win in the award's history.[11]



  1. ^ a b c d Elaine Ayala (October 30, 2015). "Mia Alvar explores Filipino diaspora". San Antonio Sun Times. Retrieved April 6, 2016. ...disparate lives of Filipino immigrants and ex-pats living in New York and Manila and in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia ... Alvar arrived at her first story after her own homecoming. It happened in 1999, when she went back to the Philippines for the first time... 
  2. ^ a b "Editors' Choice". The New York Times. June 25, 2015. Retrieved April 6, 2016. ...Giving voice to the Filipino diaspora, Alvar’s fine tales offer portraits of transnational wanderers both blessed and cursed with mobility.... 
  3. ^ Publishers Weekly
  4. ^ "A Conversation with Mia Alvar '00". Harvard Magazine. 2015-08-07. Retrieved 2018-05-12. 
  5. ^ "The Fiction of Our Experiences: An Interview with Mia Alvar". Asian American Writers' Workshop. 2016-06-30. Retrieved 2018-05-12. 
  6. ^ a b Maureen Corrigan (June 15, 2015). "Morally Messy Stories, Exquisitely Told, In Mia Alvar's 'In The Country'". NPR. Retrieved April 6, 2016. ...gorgeous writing style ... the theme of exile; yet, every main character's situation is distinct, morally messy in a different way, and unpredictable. Alvar is the kind of writer whose imagination seems inexhaustible... 
  7. ^ a b Amy Gentry (June 25, 2015). "Review: 'In the Country' by Mia Alvar". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved April 6, 2016. ... powerful novella ...graceful metaphor ... precise and patient prose ... expansiveness and her gift for grounded, human-scale metaphors.... 
  8. ^ a b J. R. RAMAKRISHNAN (June 19, 2015). "'In the Country,' by Mia Alvar". The New York Times. Retrieved April 6, 2016. ... a writer with enchanting powers... 
  9. ^ Steve Donoghue (June 30, 2015). "'In the Country' tells tales from the Filipino diaspora: Mia Alvar's debut short story collection portrays nine different lives, connected through memories of their home country". Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved April 6, 2016. ...Alvar's speciality: the smart depiction of lives lived between two worlds. ... vivid glimpses of street life in Manila, ... 
  10. ^ "2016 PEN Literary Award Winners". PEN. April 11, 2016. Retrieved April 11, 2016. 
  11. ^ "Author Mia Alvar receives 2016 Kafka Prize". NewsCenter. 2016-10-31. Retrieved 2018-05-12. 

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