Isabel Allende: ‘Few People Allow Themselves to Be Changed By Books’
The A Long Petal of the Sea Author
on First Draft: A Dialogue of Writing
First Draft: A Dialogue of Writing is a weekly show featuring in-depth interviews with fiction, nonfiction, essay writers, and poets, highlighting the voices of writers as they discuss their work, their craft, and the literary arts. Hosted by Mitzi Rapkin, First Draft celebrates creative writing and the individuals who are dedicated to bringing their carefully chosen words to print as well as the impact writers have on the world we live in.
This week on First Draft, Isabel Allende joins Mitzi to discuss her latest book A Long Petal of the Sea, out now from Ballantine. Allende said she grew up seeing women with little agency in her family and her community in Chile, but in her early 20s she started reading feminist books.
From the episode:
Mitzi Rapkin: Do you think there’s anything about just finding a voice for women that led you to journalism?
Isabel Allende: I love telling stories. I like to write and never thought that I could be a writer because the only women writers that I knew about were all some old British spinsters that had died and had committed suicide. The rest were just males; the great boom of Latin American literature was a bunch of men. There were no women there, so I never thought that I would be a writer but I could be a journalist. I found a job in a feminine, very avant-garde magazine that started to deal with feminism early on when it wasn’t an issue in Chile yet. I had found my perfect niche, and that’s how I began writing. I wasn’t thinking that I was giving a voice to women. It was just random energy and the wish—the desire—to change everything, to change the society, the culture, the religion, everything.
Mitzi Rapkin: Do you think that literature can change those things in the same way that journalism can?
Isabel Allende: No, journalism is a very different media. Literature can maybe change minds, but few people read. Few people allow themselves to be influenced or changed by books. It takes a book sometimes decades, sometimes centuries, to have an effect, while journalism is very immediate and very powerful. You have minutes of something on TV, and you can create much more impact than a book can do in many, many years.
To listen to the rest of the episode, as well as the whole archive of First Draft, subscribe and listen on iTunes or wherever else you find your favorite podcasts.
Isabel Allende is the author of more than 23 works of fiction and non-fiction including The House of Spirits, Eva Luna, Of Love and Shadows, and Ripper. She has sold more than 74 million books, which have been translated into 40 languages. Allende devotes much of her time to human rights causes. After her daughter Paula died, she established a charitable foundation in her honor, which delivers care to girls and women around the world.