Another day, another woman making history. On Wednesday, November 14th, Chilean-American novelist Isabel Allende became the first Spanish language writer to receive an honorary National Book Award medal. She won the lifetime achievement award at the 69th National Book Awards Ceremony in New York City. Past winners of the award include American writers Toni Morrison, John Updike, and Joan Didion.
In a statement, Lisa Lucas, executive director of the National Book Foundation, said that Allende’s stories about women “represent crucial contributions to the literary landscape.” She also added that the author’s narratives never condescend to the reader nor cheapen the experiences of her characters. To those unfamiliar with her body of work, Allende is one of the world’s most popular Spanish-language writers. She has penned over 20 books throughout her entire career, the most notable being The House of the Spirits, which was adapted into a feature film in 1993 starring Jeremy Irons, Meryl Streep, and Winona Ryder. Streaming giant Hulu is also working on a TV adaptation of the critically-acclaimed novel. Her books have sold over 70 million copies worldwide and have been translated into more than 30 languages.
Jane the Virgin fans might also recognize her from her cameo in the show’s fourth season, where she imparted literary wisdom on Jane (Jane is a huge Allende stan).
In Allende’s acceptance speech, she dedicated the award to “millions of people like myself who have come to this country in search of a new life.”
Congratulations, Isabel Allende. You are an inspiration.