Isabel Allende

Isabella Allende

Photo © 2007 Lori Batta

  • Birth Date: August 2, 1942

  • Birth Place: Lima, Peru

  • Parents: Tomás Allende & Francisca Llona "Doña" Panchita

  • Arrival in U.S.A.: 1987

  • Naturalization Date: 2003

  • Homes in U.S.A.: San Rafael, CA

  • Place of primary residence: San Rafael, CA

"Being marginal is like being a new immigrant. If you can transform marginality into something positive, instead of dwelling in it as something negative, it's a wonderful source of strength."
"My family practiced charity abundantly and discreetly. Generosity was not a virtue, it was a duty, nothing"


Early Life

Isabel Allende was born in Lima, Peru on August 2, 1942 to Chilean parents Tomás Allende & Francisca Llona “Doña” Panchita. Her father was a Chilean diplomat who served in Lima, Peru. One day, around Isabel’s third birthday, her father left to buy cigarettes and never came home. Her mother moved the family back to Santiago, Chile in 1945 and, in 1953, she remarried Chilean diplomat Ramon Huidobro. Between 1953 and 1958, Isabel lived with her family in Bolivia and Lebanon where she attended North American and English private schools. Because of the political violence in Lebanon, she was sent home to Chile in 1958 to continue her education and work. In 1962, at the age of 19, she married her first husband and took a job with the United Nations. Between 1962 and 1966 she again lived abroad while working with the United Nations in Brussels and Switzerland. She returned to Chile in 1966 and, shortly thereafter, began a career in journalism.

The Chilean Political Crisis & Exile

Like many in Chile, Isabel and her family suffered from the overthrow of her uncle, Chilean President, Salvador Allende, on September 11, 1973. Most of her family was forced to flee. After spending two challenging years in Santiago helping others escape Chile and the military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet, Isabel began receiving death threats and discovered she had been added to the government’s wanted list. She and her family fled to Caracas, Venezuela, where she lived in self-imposed exile from 1975 until 1987. While living in Venezuela, Isabel continued her work in journalism as a contributor to El Nacional, a Caracas newspaper.

Writing Novels & Moving to the United States

On January 8, 1981, Isabel learned that her grandfather, who still lived in Chile, was dying. Unable to return to Chile to visit him, she began writing him a letter that ultimately became the manuscript of the novel, The House of the Spirits, which was published in 1982. She continued to write and published an additional three novels during the 1980s. In 1987, she met her current husband, William Gordon, at a lecture she gave in San Francisco. She moved to California one week later and, in 2003, became a United States citizen. Isabel Allende lives with her husband in Marin County, California, just across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco. Her son and grandchildren live nearby.

Isabel Allende’s work has been referred to as magical realism and her writing often touches on themes of magic, spirituality and politics. She has had fifteen books, both fiction and nonfiction, published between 1982 and 2006. More than 30 million of Isabel Allende’s books have sold worldwide during that time. Her works have been translated into more than 27 languages and some have become best sellers in the United States, Latin American, Europe and Australia. Two of her novels, The House of the Spirits and Of Love and Shadows, have been made into Hollywood films, and three of her novels Aphrodite, Eva Luna and Gift for a Sweetheart are currently in production as films. Additionally, several of her works have been adapted into theatre, opera and ballet.

I love this country in general and California in particular. Diversity fascinates me. All the races of the planet come here with their traditions and their dreams. Everything new or important starts here or comes here. I like the awareness, the sense of future, the generosity of the people.


Last updated: December 23, 2016