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the story behind the book

‘In the Country,’ by Mia Alvar

david wilson for the boston globe

The first story in Mia Alvar’s debut collection takes place in Manila, where the author spent her earliest years; the protagonist is a New York-based pharmacist who has returned to help during his dying father’s final days. “The roots of that story came from when I visited the Philippines for the first time after being away for about a decade,” Alvar said. “It was inspired by real life and then also ended up inspiring me to write a full collection.”

“In the Country” comprises nine stories, set variously in the Philippines, Bahrain, and the United States — all places Alvar has lived. From her earliest years, she loved writing. “That was partly because of a low-tech childhood in the Philippines where it was sort of a form of entertainment,” she said. In high school and college in the United States, Alvar wanted to be a poet. It was during a trip to the Philippines during her senior year at Harvard that Alvar began to think about her family’s stories as source material for fiction.


“I wouldn’t have written a short story collection about Filipino immigrants or migrant workers if I felt like there was a surplus of these types of narratives and characters and voices across literary fiction,” she said. “I do feel like there’s a hunger for a wide array of voices . . . a real kind of hunger for people to see themselves and their parents and their communities in literature.”

Alvar will read at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Harvard Book Store, a location she said “feels like it’s literally on Memory Lane,” adding, “I spent too much of my work-study money there.”

Kate Tuttle can be reached at can be reached at