Because we got a late start for Hispanic Heritage Month, (it actually started September 15), we are going to spend this whole week, the final week of this particular celebration, featuring Hispanic authors, scholars, educators, and speakers. Next week we’ll get back to celebrating LGBT and Philipino American History.

Portrait of Isabel Allende
Isabel Allende

Isabel Allende is a Chilean journalist and author born on August 2, 1942, in Lima, Peru. As a young woman, Allende started her writing career as a journalist working in television and for magazines in the 60s and 70s. After a military coup in 1973, Allende fled Chile with her first husband and two children. They lived in exile in Venezuela for the next 13 years.

Upon learning that her grandfather, who was still in Chile, was dying, she wrote him a letter. The letter ended up being the basis for her first novel, The House of the Spirits, which became a worldwide bestseller and launched her literary career. She was 40 years old. Sadly, her grandfather died before he got to read the letter.

The author calls her writing style “realistic literature, rooted in her remarkable upbringing and the mystical people and events that fueled her imagination.” She explains that her writing is “equally informed by her feminist convictions, her commitment to social justice, and the harsh political realities that shaped her destiny.”

In addition to her work as a writer, Allende also devotes much of her efforts to human rights.  For example, following the death of her daughter, Paula, in 1992, she established a charitable foundation in her honor dedicated to the protection and empowerment of women and girls worldwide. “For over 20 years, I have lectured internationally about women’s rights and the empowerment of women; Latin American and world politics; Chile; writing and the creative process; spirituality; and my own work.”

Allende has been called “the world’s most widely read Spanish-language author.” In 2004, Allende was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and in 2010, she received Chile’s National Literature Prize. President Barack Obama awarded her the 2014 Presidential Medal of Freedom. She gave a TED Talk called “Tales of Passion” in which she discusses “women, creativity, the definition of feminism — and, of course, passion,” which has been viewed 3,753,765 times.

On her website, she includes this impressive list of her accomplishments in her biography:

Isabel Allende became a U.S. citizen in 1993, but lives, she says, “with one foot in California and the other in Chile.”