Isabel Allende Receives 2018 Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters

isabel allende national book foundation honorary medal

Isabel Allende will be the first Spanish-language author to receive the National Book Foundation’s Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, making her the 31st recipient of the honorary award for her accomplishments and contributions to American letters. Following Saul Bellow, Allende, who is Chilean-American, will be the second author born outside of the United States to receive the prize.

Allende’s body of work, which includes The House of the Spirits, Eva Luna, Of Love and Shadows, and Island Beneath the Sea, incorporate elements of magical realism to pay homage to the lives of women while drawing off of personal and historical events and experiences.

When asked to comment by The Associated Press during a phone interview (published September 20), Allende expressed her discomfort with the word legacy, stating: “I think legacy is a very masculine word. I don’t think women think in terms of legacy very much. We’re more practical and we know trends don’t last for too long. People and things are forgotten. I am just very happy to have so many readers right now.”

Held in high regard for her contributions to literature concerning the representation of women which exist in “expertly crafted and propulsive narratives”, according to Lisa Lucas, executive director of the National Book Foundation, “Allende elevates the stories and lives of women, never condescending to her readers or cheapening the experiences of her characters.”

Allende, who has authored more than 20 novels, will be presented with the medal and a $10,000 prize at the National Book Award benefit dinner and ceremony in Manhattan on November 14 by Luis Alberto Urerra, a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 2005 for The Devil’s Highway.

Past honorary medalists have included Annie Proulx, Don DeLillo, Joan Didion, Toni Morrison and Stephen King.

In the meantime, check out the 2018 National Book Awards longlists for Translated Literature, Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry, and Young People’s Literature.

For even more reading, take a look at the National Book Foundation’s ‘5 Under 35’, a selection of debut authors under the age of 35 whose work “promises to leave a lasting impression on the literary landscape.”

What do you think of Isabel Allende receiving this year’s honorary medal?

Tell us some of your favorite works by the author in the comments below!
Melissa Ratcliff
the authorMelissa Ratcliff
Senior Staff Writer
Reader, Writer & Translator. Cats, books and video games are my life.