Let’s hear it for Latina writers!
The White House has announced that Chilean-American novelist Isabel Allende (a Hip Latina if there ever was one) has been selected to receive one of 19 Presidential Medals of Freedom this year. This will be one of many honors Allende has received over the years, both from the U.S. and abroad, for her outstanding work. A few past honors include being inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 2004, Latino Leaders Magazine in 2007 naming her the third most influential Latino leader in the world, the Chilean National Prize for Literature in 2010, and winning the Hans Christian Andersen Literature Award in Denmark in 2012. Her work has been translated into over 30 languages and has repeatedly graced the pages of the New York Times Bestseller list.
History of an Icon
Allende was born in Lima August 2nd, 1942, and raised in a political family in Chile (her father was the first cousin of Chilean President Salvador Allende). Her popular first novel, The House of the Spirits, continues to introduce new readers to Allende’s oeuvre every year—and she has written something for pretty much everyone. Her novels (like the bestselling Eva Luna), memoirs, and short stories have been compared to that other Latino literary superstar, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, for their magical realist qualities; but the meticulous storytelling technique and the singular attention she pays to exploring the intimate lives of women in Latin American throughout history marks Allende in a class by herself.
Her newest books, novel Ines of My Soul and memoir The Sum of Our Days, deal with passionate and romantic commitment to love, and to following ones’ ideals, regardless of the price. She has also written an adventure trilogy for young readers: City of the Beasts, Kingdom of the Golden Dragon, and Forest of the Pygmies.
Released in paperback in April 2014 (and available on Kindle) is Allende’s first suspense novel, Maya’s Notebook. The book is a contemporary coming-of-age story centering on a teenager abandoned by her parents. A memoir about Chile, My Invented Country, weaves the story of her own life (and the ghosts, animals, and lingering memories) together with tales of Chile’s political realities, past and present. She brings the narrative back to her adopted country, the U.S., by relating her uncle’s assassination with the attacks of September 11th, 2001. Her work, often funny, sensual, and imaginative, and sometimes rather dark, always maintains story over plot, and memory over fact—it is the work of a dreamer.
Beyond the Page
In addition to her myriad literary accomplishments, Allende is to be admired for her community work. Her Isabel Allende Foundation works along with non-profits in the San Francisco Bay Area and Chile to protect, empower, and inspire women and girls—Allende has said that she believes we need feminine energy in the management of the world.
The author has said, “In Spanish, the word for retirement is jubilación. Jubilation. Celebration. I have chosen to stay passionate with an open heart and I’m working on it every day. She has celebrated with her popular TEDx talk, “Tales of Passion.” Lucky for us, this Latina leader has no plans to retire.