18 March 2009

My Book Report

I met Isabel Allende yesterday.

Self-exiled from Chile, Isabel Allende came to San Fransisco and began writing. She worked twelve hour days and sat down to write at night, not knowing that what she was writing would turn into the amazingly layered and complex (not to mention well-received and now taught in most American High Schools) novel The House of the Spirits. Over a dozen novels and memoirs would follow for the next 20 years. I was supposed to read The House of the Spirits when I was 14, but even though my friends fell in love with it, I couldn't bring myself to pick up a book for school. That's just how I was. Years later, after finishing an intense program on literary arts, I was looking for something that had all the tools and tricks of a self-reflective piece of writing, but that was really just a great story. A novel with integrity.

I picked up a small mass market of The House of the Spirits and knew instantly that I had found what I needed. Allende is a brilliant writer whose novels span generations, intricately explaining each character while positioning them in a historical and political context. Her writing isn't just about people, they are about society and culture. I can't help but adore that.

Currently, I'm reading Portrait in Sepia, written almost ten years after House of Spirits. I think she is the only person whose books I've been able to read more than one of. Can you believe that? Portrait in Sepia holds to all of the standards that House of Spirits set, yet it tells a completely different story, taking place in both Chile and San Fransisco.

I can't say enough about how much it meant to me to meet this woman I find so amazing. What's best about it all is that on top of her many many published masterpieces, Allende has a foundation named after her late daughter's personal mantra (as she told us in her speech yesterday), We Only Have What We Give. Her foundation aids in the empowerment and protection of women across the globe. Oh, and she's almost as tall as me...which is to say: very short!

Here she is speaking for TED:

Thanks for listening to me. I didn't intend to write an essay on Allende, but I think I needed to. I would like to note that I purposely linked the two books to two different sources. I am hoping to share online ordering options that are both independent and 'people powered' (this means that the money you put into it will go directly back into its workers). Powell's books, in particular, is connected to an actual physical store in Portland, OR. Several stores, in fact. And in each store, people are working hard to be knowledgeable and customer-minded. As independent bookstores go, they have the farthest reaching online presence, attaching their in-store knowledge to the web site while providing availability of so many used and rare books. That's why I used them. Albiris is an amazing source for just about any new, used, out of print and rare book. They have managed to not get bought out by Amazon and they deserve our support for that. Thank you for keeping the art and literary sector alive by supporting independent bookstores and their employees!


  1. Dear Anna,

    Thank you for this essay! Until today I haven't even heard of Isabel Allende and her books; from today I am going to catch up.

  2. That's so great Anya! I hope you enjoy her!

  3. Anna: Isabel Allende is one of my favorite authors!! I would LOVE to have met her. I realized this morning from your comment that you must live in Seattle too! - did you see her here?? How did I miss that?? I noticed your comment on Abby's site after Molly's book reading (I was there too!) about linking to independent bookstores; I linked to Elliot Bay for my last book mention thanks to your suggestion.


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