Maya's Notebook (Allende) - Author Bio

Author Bio
Birth—August 2, 1942
Where—Lima, Peru
Education—private schools in Bolivia and Lebanon
Awards—Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize, 1998; Sara Lee
   Foundation Award, 1998; WILLA Literary Award, 2000
Currently—lives in San Rafael, California, USA


Isabel Allende is a Chilean writer whose works sometimes contain aspects of the "magic realist" tradition. Author of more than 20 books—essay collections, memoirs, and novels, she is perhaps best known for her novels The House of the Spirits (1982), Daughter of Fortune (1999), and Ines of My Soul (2006). She has been called "the world's most widely read Spanish-language author." All told her novels have been translated from Spanish into over 30 languages and have sold more than 55 million copies.

Her novels are often based upon her personal experience and pay homage to the lives of women, while weaving together elements of myth and realism. She has lectured and toured many American colleges to teach literature. Fluent in English as a second language, Allende was granted American citizenship in 2003, having lived in California with her American husband since 1989.
 
Early background
Allende was born Isabel Allende Llona in Lima, Peru, the daughter of Francisca Llona Barros and Tomas Allende, who was at the time the Chilean ambassador to Peru. Her father was a first cousin of Salvador Allende, President of Chile from 1970 to 1973, making Salvador her first cousin once removed (not her uncle as he is sometimes referred to).

In 1945, after her father had disappeared, Isabel's mother relocated with her three children to Santiago, Chile, where they lived until 1953. Allende's mother married diplomat Ramon Huidobro, and from 1953-1958 the family moved often, including to Bolivia and Beirut. In Bolivia, Allende attended a North American private school; in Beirut, she attended an English private school. The family returned to Chile in 1958, where Allende was briefly home-schooled. In her youth, she read widely, particularly the works of William Shakespeare.

From 1959 to 1965, while living in Chile, Allende finished her secondary studies. She married Miguel Frias in 1962; the couple's daughter Paula was born in 1963 and their son Nicholas in 1966. During that time Allende worked with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization in Santiago, Chile, then in Brussels, Belgium, and elsewhere in Europe.

Returning to Chile in 1996, Allende translated romance novels (including those of Barbara Cartland) from English to Spanish but was fired for making unauthorized changes to the dialogue in order to make the heriones sound more intelligent. She also altered the Cinderella endings, letting the heroines find more independence.

In 1967 Allende joined the editorial staff for Paula magazine and in 1969 the children's magazine Mampato, where she later became editor. She published two children's stories, Grandmother Panchita and Lauchas y Lauchones, as well as a collection of articles, Civilice a Su Troglodita.

She also worked in Chilean television from 1970-1974. As a journalist, she interviewed famed Chilean poet Pablo Neruda. Neruda told Allende that she had too much imagination to be a journalist and that she should become a novelist. He also advised her to compile her satirical columns in book form—which she did and which became her first published book. In 1973, Allende's play El Embajador played in Santiago, a few months before she was forced to flee the country due to the coup.

The military coup in September 1973 brought Augusto Pinochet to power and changed everything for Allende. Her mother and diplotmat stepfather narrowly escaped assassination, and she herself began receiving death threats. In 1973 Allende fled to Venezuela.

Life after Chile
Allende remained in exile in Venezuela for 13 years, working as a columnist for El Nacional, a major newspaper. On a 1988 visit to California, she met her second husband, attorney Willie Gordon, with whom she now lives in San Rafael, California. Her son Nicolas and his children live nearby.

In 1992 Allende's daughter Paula died at the age of 28, the result of an error in medication while hospitalized for porphyria (a rarely fatal metabolic disease). To honor her daughter, Allenda started the Isabel Allende Foundation in 1996. The foundation is "dedicated to supporting programs that promote and preserve the fundamental rights of women and children to be empowered and protected."

In 1994, Allende was awarded the Gabriela Mistral Order of Merit—the first woman to receive this honor.

She was granted U.S. citizenship in 2003 and inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 2004. She was one of the eight flag bearers at the Opening Ceremony of the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy.

In 2008 Allende received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from San Francisco State University for her "distinguished contributions as a literary artist and humanitarian." In 2010 she received Chile's National Literature Prize.

Writing
In 1981, during her exile, Allende received a phone call that her 99-year-old grandfather was near death. She sat down to write him a letter wishing to "keep him alive, at least in spirit." Her letter evolved into The House of the Spirits—the intent of which was to exorcise the ghosts of the Pinochet dictatorship. Although rejected by numerous Latin American publishers, the novel was finally published in Spain, running more than two dozen editions in Spanish and a score of translations. It was an immense success.

Allende has since become known for her vivid storytelling. As a writer, she holds to a methodical literary routine, working Monday through Saturday, 9:00 A.M. to 7:00 P.M. "I always start on 8 January,"Allende once said, a tradition that began with the letter to her dying grandfather.

Her 1995 book Paula recalls Allende's own childhood in Santiago, Chile, and the following years she spent in exile. It is written as an anguished letter to her daughter. The memoir is as much a celebration of Allende's turbulent life as it is the chronicle of Paula's death.

Her 2008 memoir The Sum of Our Days centers  on her recent life with her immediate family—her son, second husband, and grandchildren. The Island Beneath the Sea, set in New Orleans, was published in 2010. Maya's Notebook, a novel alternating between Berkeley, California, and Chiloe, an island in Chile, was published in 2011 (2013 in the U.S.). Three movies have been based on her novels—Aphrodite, Eva Luna, and Gift for a Sweetheart. (Adapted from Wikipedia. Retrieved 5/23/2013.)


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