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Isabel Allende. Photo credit: Lori Barra

Lit Bits: Isabel Allende

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This post was written by Katya Soto, an intern in the Center for the Book of the Library of Congress under the mentorship of Guy Lamolinara, researched by Sasha Dowdy. 

For the end of Hispanic Heritage Month, we are featuring Isabel Allende, the 2010 Library of Congress Creative Achievement Award for Fiction.

Isabel Allende is a best-selling Chilean-American writer who was born in Lima, where her father, Tomás Allende, was Chile’s ambassador to Peru. Her uncle was Chilean President Salvador Allende, who was assassinated in 1973 during a military coup. Believing it was unsafe to remain in Chile, Isabel, her husband and two children fled to Venezuela.

Tune in to this week’s video as Isabel Allende’s is recognized as the recipient of the 2010 Library of Congress National Book Festival Creative Achievement Award.

Timestamps: 18:22-19:38

Since 2008, the Library of Congress has awarded a prize to distinguished writers of fiction. The Library of Congress Lifetime Achievement Award for the Writing of Fiction was created to honor a career dedicated to the literary arts. This award was first presented to Herman Wouk on Sept. 10, 2008. This inaugural award has inspired subsequent Library of Congress fiction awards, given in connection with the Library’s annual National Book Festival. This award is now known as the Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction, and has been awarded to authors such as Philip Roth, Don DeLillo, E.L. Doctorow, Louise Erdrich, Marilynne Robinson, Denis Johnson, E. Annie Proulx, Richard Ford and Colson Whitehead. Read more about this award on the Fiction Prize page.

We value the connections that everyone’s lives makes with creativity, knowledge, and memories contained in the Library’s vast collections. See below for examples of many entry points into the Library’s collections through stories of our lives and our fiction.

Portion of an article that appeared in the Kodiak mirror, Alaska, 27 June 1959. (Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers./Library of Congress)

A dreadful sound rings differently for every individual. For Chilean novelist Isabel Allende, it is the distinct sound of Hawker Hunter airplanes overhead. The sound of war.

On Sept. 11, 1973, Allende’s uncle and then Chilean President Salvador Allende was overthrown. Exiled from her country, she found refuge in Venezuela for 13 years.

Marchers for Allende, Jim Wallace, Sept. 5, 1964. Photograph showing a crowd of people marching to support the election of Salvador Allende for president in Santiago, Chile. (U.S. News & World Report Magazine collection)


Salvador Allende, President of Chile [United Nations, New York]. Photo by Bernard Gotfryd. (Library of Congress/Prints and Photographs collection)
Her 1982 novel, “The House of Spirits,” originally a letter for her grandfather, became the foundation for her career as a novelist of magical realism.

For an in-depth dive into one of the most prevalent magical realism authors, check out this podcast episode from the Library about Gabriel García Márquez

La Biblioteca podcast episode: Listening to Gabriel García Márquez. Click here for the transcript


Allende’s novels channel her feelings of misplacement as she writes stories of women who struggle against extraordinary odds. “In all my books, you [will] find marginal people who are not sheltered by the big umbrella of their establishment. People who have to overcome huge obstacles to have a destiny in life,” Allende said. Having now written well over 20 books, she continues to create beloved stories that are enjoyed throughout the world.

For more information about Isabel Allende, check out:

Comments (3)

  1. I commend the writing: “A dreadful sound rings differently for every individual. For Chilean novelist Isabel Allende, it is the distinct sound of Hawker Hunter airplanes overhead. The sound of war.” This combination of primary sources, especially the compelling photos of fighter planes overhead in a US newspaper, is a great example of ways we can make vivid connections to what we are teaching. I admire Ms. Allende, who at 81 continues to write and publish novels that take us inside the lived experiences of history (and in her 2023 book The Wind Knows My Name, which I found because I was inspired by your post to search, connections to the recent present).

  2. She writes with her mind and soul. I have read all of her books, and love all of them. Isabel is the best writer in the world! Absolutely amazing ! ❤️

  3. For me, Isabel is an author without any compare. I can tell that she puts her heart and soul in her stories. Her books can lead to life changing experiences.

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