English Professor Wins Outstanding Book in Community Writing Award


Dr. Steven Alvarez and Dr. Sara P. Alvarez (Queens College) pictured with the students of MANOS, the Mexican American Network of Students.

February 12, 2020

In Brokering Tareas: Mexican Immigrant Families Translanguaging Homework Literacies, Associate Professor of English Steven Alvarez, Ph.D., recounts his experience with a MANOS, the Mexican American Network of Students, neighborhood afterschool program in New York City that connected bilingual children and their immigrant parents with English language mentors. Dr. Alvarez served as a mentor in the program, and writes about the program as a site of literacies practices, language brokering, and community-building.

Brokering Tareas

A year after its publication, Brokering Tareas is the 2019 winner of the Outstanding Book in Community Writing Award from the Coalition for Community Writing. According to the Coalition, the Outstanding Book Award “is presented for the most outstanding book in community writing, which includes the areas of service learning, community-based research, community literacy, ethnography and memoir, community publishing, advocacy, and activist writing.”

Brokering Tareas, a publication that grew out of Dr. Alvarez’s dissertation for his Ph.D. at The Graduate Center of the City University of New York, was pivotal in the direction of his academic career. The process of researching the book – alongside his growth toward the fields of composition and rhetoric and critical pedagogy – helped Dr. Alvarez engage public scholarship and the power of bilingualism in education.

“I started off graduate school pursuing literary studies in English, but the more I studied and moved through academic spaces, I realized I didn’t see myself,” he said. “That discouraged me enough to consider leaving my program, but fortunately teaching writing gave me hope, and then I learned about community literacy studies, which focused on the dignity and lived experiences of communities like mine. By the time MANOS came into my life, I was ready to pursue studies where I felt I was engaged with community, and where the trust we built through our shared literacies could be a model for a fulfilling academic trajectory. In short, MANOS changed my life, and also my vision for what academia could be.”

The program name – MANOS – also means hands in Spanish. Dr. Alvarez begins Brokering Tareas with the Mexican proverb, “muchas manos hacen ligero el trabajo” or “many hands make the work lighter,” which speaks to the involvement of the community in the work of education.

Previously Assistant Professor of Writing, Rhetoric, and Digital Studies at the University of Kentucky, Dr. Alvarez teaches courses at St. John’s that range from autobiographical writing, ethnographic methods, visual rhetoric, and “taco literacy,” which explores the foodways of Mexican immigrants in the United States. In addition to Brokering Tareas, Dr. Alvarez is the author of Community Literacies en Confianza: Learning from Bilingual After-School Programs and three books of poetry. One, The Codex Mojaodicus, was the winner of the 2016 Fence Modern Poets Prize. Alvarez was also recently recognized as a finalist for the Inaugural Amsterdam Open Book Prize for his manuscript yr / polis.