If like me you've spent years eagerly devouring every book you can by a certain Chilean American author, then I have some news that should make you very happy indeed. Isabel Allende is receiving a lifetime achievement award from PEN Center USA. And it's certainly one that's well-earned.
Isabel Allende, who grew up in Chile but has lived in the United States since marrying an American in the 1980s, is the author of over a dozen books which have been translated into 35 languages and collectively sold over 65 million copies. She is perhaps best known for her first book, The House of the Spirits, set in her native Chile in the years leading up the military coup that ousted President Salvador Allende. Her novels often focus on the lives and perspectives of women, particularly in historical settings, and her stories are always marked by a great deal of compassion and insight.
Allende will be presented with a lifetime achievement award from the PEN Center USA, a branch of the international PEN organization, this September at their annual literary awards festival. The award is meant particularly to recognize "her feminism, her commitment to social justice, and her take on the 1973 military coup in Chile." And it's certainly a well deserved honor.
The PEN Center USA, as a PEN International Center, is dedicated fostering interest in the written word and "defend freedom of expression domestically and internationally." Past recipients of their lifetime achievement award include Joan Didion, Joyce Carol Oates, Elmore Leonard, Betty Friedan, Octavia Butler, and Ray Bradbury. Which is certainly illustrious company, but Allende doubtlessly fits right in.
Allende's past honors have included the Chilean National Prize for Literature, the Library of Congress Creative Freedom Award for Fiction, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which is among the highest civilian honors American citizens can receive.