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.”