The Chilean American writer Isabel Allende is best known for her novels The House of Spirits and City of Beasts. In addition to writing novels, Allende is an author to several short stories, plays and children’s stories. Sometimes based on her own childhood experiences, a lot of Allende’s stories mix together elements of myth and realism and are projected from a feminine point of view full of drama, romance and struggle. Over the years Isabel Allende has received immense international acclaim for her work. Allende is the niece of former Chilean President Salvador Allende who was assassinated in 1973. She was given membership to the American Academy of Arts and Letters and also awarded the prestigious National Literature Prize of Chile.
Isabel Allende was born in Lima, Peru on August 2, 1942 to Tomás and Francisca who divorced when Isbel was 3. Following the divorce, Francisca and Isabel moved to Santiago to her grandparents’ house where she spent her childhood. Her grandmother’s interest in fortune telling and astrology intensely fascinated Isabel and she also took a deep interest in the stories her grandmother told. The house was full of books of all kinds which Isabel read avidly. 3 years after graduating from a private high school in Santiago, Isabel married Miguel Frías, an engineer in 1962. She joined the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization where she worked for several years as a secretary. Isabel later shifted towards journalism and worked for Paula magazine as a journalist, editor and advice columnist. Allende also worked for the television as an interviewer and newscaster.
Following the months after her uncle Salvador Allende’s assassination, Isabel realized it was getting exceedingly dangerous for her family to live in Chile. Therefore, Isabel fled to Venezuela along with her husband and kids in 1973. In Venezuela, Allende failed to acquire a journalistic job despite the fact that she had become an established journalist in Chile. While in exile, Allende began work on her first novel, The House of the Spirits which was published in 1982. The novel became a sensational bestseller in Spain and West Germany, winning the Quality Paperback Book Club New Voice Award nomination. It was also adapted to screen and released in the United States as a film in 1994.
Her next book, Of Love and Shadows also received a Los Angeles Times Book Prize nomination. Allende met William Gordon, a lawyer while on a lecture tour to promote Of Love and Shadows in San Jose California. The two fell in love and married in 1988. Allende had been divorced from her first husband since a year by now. Even since the wedding in 1988, the couple has lived in Marin, California. Allende had been working as a school administrator but left the job to become a full time writer realizing her popularity in the field. In 1988, Allende published Eva Luna which was followed by a sequel The Stories of Eva Luna in 1991. Other following works of Isabel Allende include The Infinite Plan (1993), Paula (1995), Daughter of Fortune (1999) and Portrait in Sepia (2001).
Isabel Allende has been praised and honored at the Hispanic Heritage Awards for her contributions to the Hispanic American community. She was also awarded the Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize for excellence in the arts in 1998.