Bryan Stevenson

Isabel recently attended an event featuring Bryan Stevenson, a lawyer and social justice activist who founded the Equal Justice Initiative and is the author of the award-winning bestseller 
Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and RedemptionShe was so inspired by what he had to say that she immediately sat down to write the following post for the blog: 

I need to share with you this deeply moving experience that changed my views about freedom, justice and equality in the United States. I was blown away by Bryan Stevenson’s passion and eloquence. Over an hour-and-a-half period he explained to an almost all-white audience at the local Jewish Community Center here in Marin County how injustice targets blacks, minorities, the poor, the broken, the mentally ill, and worst of all, children.

Stevenson told us that his office is in Alabama, the state with the highest rate of executions in the country. In fact, the US is one of the few countries in the world that still has the death penalty. It has 2.3 million people incarcerated—by far the largest number in the world—and there are 7 million Americans, most of them people of color, who cannot vote because of having once been behind bars. We are also the only country in the world where a 13-year-old child can be condemned to die in prison.

Stevenson is not one to sit back quietly, however. He was instrumental in a recent and historic Supreme Curt ruling that mandatory life without parole for children 17 and younger is unconstitutional.

The obvious question is, what can we do? To start, Stevenson has spoken of four things that can bring change:

  1. Proximity: Get really close to the problem and to the victims of the system. 
  2. Change the narrative: We have not reconciled with our past; we need to talk truthfully about slavery, lynching, Jim Crow, and the idea of white supremacy to understand and end discrimination.
  3. Hope: Stevenson is convinced that justice for all is possible. Losing hope is the best way to maintain the status quo.
  4. Get uncomfortable: Demonstrate, protest, challenge the system, create awareness, become an activist.

Since I can’t possibly summarize Stevenson’s crusade for compassion and justice as well as he can, please watch his 2012 TED Talk.


East Bay Sanctuary Covenant

Kaveena, Michael, Sister Maureen, Isabel and Farzana at our lunch in Berkeley

Kaveena, Michael, Sister Maureen, Isabel and Farzana at our lunch in Berkeley

Recently, during a flurry of site-visits in which Lori, executive director of the Isabel Allende Foundation, and I visit our grantees, we stumbled upon a group working in Berkeley, Calif., called The East Bay Sanctuary Covenant. To say it was love at first sight is an understatement. First of all, you must understand that this agency works out of the basement of a church. It is as bare bones as you can get and yet still does the most amazing work. If you look up grass roots in the dictionary…okay, okay, you get the idea.

Here is what they do, in their own words:

“East Bay Sanctuary Covenant offers sanctuary, solidarity, support, community organizing assistance, advocacy and legal services to those escaping war, terror, political persecution, intolerance, exploitation and other expressions of violence. We intentionally provide opportunities for transformational learning that arise from the relationships we foster among refugees, immigrants and host communities. We join with others to understand and eliminate the causes of violence and oppression worldwide.”

Read more about the organization here. Lori and I loved them so much we insisted Isabel meet them personally. We had lunch with Executive Director Sister Maureen Duignan, Program Director Michael Smith, Staff Attorney Kaveena Singh and Farzana Ali, their amazing office manager. On the day we visited, the waiting room was full of folks seeking help and asylum.

The work East Bay Sanctuary Covenant does is truly inspiring and it is one of the agencies Isabel funds that I am profoundly happy just to know about. Consider a donation or look into volunteering opportunities by clicking here.

P.S. Isabel loved them too, AND not just because Sister Maureen was the same height as Isabel, that wasn’t why, honest!


New Year Traditions


Johanna Castillo and Isabel

Johanna Castillo and Isabel

Recently we shared a festive lunch with Johanna Castillo, Isabel’s feisty editor from Atria, and she filled us in on how she kicks off the new year right. Johanna, who is from Ecuador, is a go-getter who sets up her year for success in an elaborate way. We are grateful she shared her secrets, and although we aren’t superstitious (well, maybe a little) we are all going to try these. Isabel says we will be completely exhausted by New Year’s Day, but hopefully we’ll be set for an enlightened and prosperous 2016.

 Some of the following are Ecuadorean traditions, and some we think Johanna just made up. Pick and choose if you want to have a fabulous year.


1. The first thing Johanna recommends doing the morning of December 31 is to make a list of all the blessings you received throughout the year. Give thanks for them, and then write down the blessings you hope to receive in the coming the year.


2. Clean your house and get rid of all that stuff you don’t use. Next, fill your newly uncluttered space with flowers. Put them everywhere!


3. Johanna has one non-negotiable rule for New Year’s Eve. You must dress up, even if you are going no further than the family room couch to watch the ball drop on TV. Whatever your fancy outfit consists of—a strapless dress, sparkly pants, a tux, or tights and heels, make sure you’re dressed to kill before midnight. No excuses! Also, choose your colors carefully: royal blue to ensure a spiritual, enlightened new year; yellow for good luck; white to bring peace, green for prosperity; and red, of course, to attract love. (I am going to wear a rainbow just to cover all bases.) And don’t forget your hair and make up. Your special attire will indicate to the spirits that you respect the new year and want to greet it looking your best. That was my interpretation, anyway.


4. Eat grapes at midnight. Twelve grapes, to be exact—one for each month of the year.  And make sure you enjoy a bubbly drink with your grapes: Champagne, Prosecco, wine or sparkling cider. According to Johanna, it may be a little challenging to eat the grapes and drink at the same time, but it is possible.


5. If you want the coming year to include travel, get out your suitcase and walk it around the block right after you eat your midnight grapes. If you hope to travel to the beach, throw in a swimsuit and towel. Ready to go anywhere, just so long as it’s far away? Lug your biggest suitcase. When you come back inside, make sure you close the door behind you—unless your plan is to move to another country and stay there.


6. Put money in your shoes. This one is important. To ensure a prosperous year, slip money in your shoes on New Year’s Eve. And we’re not just talking ones and fives, either. Be sure to break out the tens and twenties. You can fill your shoes, your kids’ shoes, your significant other’s shoes—anyone’s! If you’re wearing something with pockets, put money in those too.


7. Come January 1, prepare a meal of lentils and rice (another way to guarantee prosperity), have a lunch with your family and enjoy a peaceful day.


8. There was something about underwear, too, but Johanna wouldn’t tell me what.


Happy New Year!




Home Again

Isabel is home again, we missed her. Fortunately Lori went with her in the book tour and sent photos along the way. Here are a few selects from the road.

Isabel with Florangela Davila, the interviewer and her mom Ligia from Colombia.

Isabel with Florangela Davila, the interviewer and her mom Ligia from Colombia. Seattle


Isabel found this little pup, “Kentucky” at a radio interview in New York. True love!


Isabel with her amazing team at Atria Books.

Isabel with the marvelous Sasha Chanoff of Refuge Point.

Harvard Bookstore Staff.

Harvard Bookstore Staff.

Isabel with the beloved Aristo.

Isabel with the beloved Aristo.

Isabel with friends from Oaxaca.

Isabel with friends from Oaxaca.


Isabel with Bill Goldstein in conversation.

Isabel with Bill Goldstein in conversation.

Isabel with Poet Sonia Sachez, Philadelphia's first poet laureate.

Isabel with poet Sonia Sachez, Philadelphia’s first poet laureate.

Isabel with friends at the Hay Adams in Washington DC. A favorite hotel along the tour trail.

Isabel with friends at the Hay Adams in Washington DC. A favorite hotel along the tour trail.

Panorama showing half the crowd at Book People in Austin, TX.

Panorama showing half the crowd at Book People in Austin, TX.

Love this girl sitting behind Isabel. Seems she got dragged here with her mom. She is reading Dork Diaries.

Love this girl sitting behind Isabel. Seems she got dragged here with her mom. She is reading Dork Diaries.


Isabel with Lorene Mills and Carol Boss Albuquerque

Standing ovation in Texas

Standing ovation in Texas from the Chileans in the crowd.

Isabel with Susan McAllister, Naomi Natale and her husband, check out their work on genocide and see her amazing art installation "<a href="" target="_blank">One Million Bones</a>" <a href="">here</a>.

Isabel with Susan McAllister, Naomi Natale and her husband, check out their work on genocide and see her amazing art installation “One Million Bones” here.

Alberto was a perfect match for Isabel.

Alberto Rios, Arizona poet laureate was a perfect match for Isabel in Phoenix.

Isabel with Antonio Ruis-Camacho

Isabel with Antonio Ruis-Camacho


Isabel and Seth Lerer laugh it up on stage.

Isabel and Seth Lerer laugh it up on stage.

Isabel with Fans in San Diego

Isabel with the Warwicks and Words Alive team in San Diego.

A little blossom time in LA.

A little bosom time love fest at Bookworm in LA.

Until next time!

Until next time!


Europe Continued

Here are some more photos of Isabel and friends along the European trail:


European Tour Pics

Lori sent a bunch of photos along the way, here are my favorites. How much fun would going on tour with Isabel be? Have a look:

Isabel traveling light arriving in Madrid.

Isabel traveling light arriving in Madrid.

first interview of the tour, Ramón Arangüena, Alfredo Menéndez, & Javier Capitán

First interview of the tour, Ramón Arangüena, Alfredo Menéndez, & Javier Capitán.

with Gonzalo Moro, director de programación, Casa Americas

With Gonzalo Moro, director de programación, Casa Americas.

meeting with journalists

Meeting with journalists.

Caden's COPE, program, La Tarde, live interview with Àngel Expósito

Caden’s COPE, program, La Tarde, live interview with Ángel Expósito.

Isabel with photographer Markus Tedeskino, he is 6' 8" tall!

Isabel with photographer Markus Tedeskino, he is 6′ 8″ tall!

Isabel and her body guards at the Frankfurt Book Fair.

Isabel lost between her her body guards at the Frankfurt Book Fair.

In Cologne, a hotel that was once a water tower.

In Cologne, a hotel that was once a water tower.

Isabel with the Mayor of Ghent, Daniël Termont

Isabel with the Mayor of Ghent, Daniël Termont.

Isabel with the Mayor of Milan, Giuliano Pisapia

Isabel with the Mayor of Milan, Giuliano Pisapia.

Inge Schönthal–Feltrinelli, with Tomás Maldonado at Feltrinelli's home in Italy

Inge Schönthal–Feltrinelli, with Tomás Maldonado at Feltrinelli’s home in Italy.

Carlo Feltrinelli and Isabel

Carlo Feltrinelli and Isabel.


The Japanese Lover Treasure Hunt

Once more, Isabel allowed us to do a treasure hunt and the prize is a dedicated copy of her new book The Japanese Lover. Here is how it works: We will post a photo of a winning ticket in Facebook and we’ll tell you more or less where it is. Your job is to find the ticket (using clues from the photograph, landmarks, buildings etc.) and to follow the instructions in the back. Please indicate your preferred language in your email, we may be able to do it, otherwise is either English or Spanish. Here is what a winning ticket looks like:

Japanese Lover Winnin Ticket

I’m very sorry, but because we are doing this ourselves, we are only able to hide tickets in the few cities along Isabel’s book tour. Please, if you find one, don’t be a spoilsport and don’t go looking for another one, we will only send one prize per person.

Good luck!


Marcelo Takes Over

Candy seems to be having too much fun at the office…

Hello! My name is Marcelo! I weigh five pounds, have four teeth and am four years old. I’m taking over the blog today!



Here’s the poop scoop on me:

My life started out pretty ruff. I was born and raised in a puppy mill in Missouri. I was malnourished, socially isolated and never knew human kindness. Lucky for me, I was saved in 2014 by Dutch Country Animal Rescue!

Once I was healthy and happy, they put me up for adoption and I found the perfect family.  I now live in New York City with my Mom and Dad, a pug brother named Boogie, a cat named Kitty and our turtle Gabriel. We’re a big fat inter-species family!

The Three Musketeers

The Three Musketeers.

Gabriel was found on the NYC subway!

Gabriel was found on the NYC subway!

Do we look alike?

Do we look alike?

Despite such a ruff beginning, my life is pretty great now! I’m a dog of leisure, and I spend my days napping, playing and demanding attention.

This summer, I was invited to come work in the Bay Area with Isabel Allende and her friends.

Pawty time

Pawty time.

So pawsome! I knew it would be great because Isabel and I have a lot in common. We’re both originally from Latin America, we’re both small and we’re both amazing at what we do (she’s a writer and philanthropist and I’m a model and therapy dog).

Two geniuses.

Two geniuses.

Best friends.

Best friends.

I arrived and immediately got to work!

How do you spell "order 100 tacos"?

How do you spell “order 100 tacos”?

Can you mail these out please? Zip code 94965.

Can you mail these out please?

My...err...Isabel's books...

My…err…Isabel’s books…

What's the phone number for pizza?

What’s the phone number for pizza?

This shaggy rug just moved.

This shaggy rug just moved.

Oops! Caught sleeping on the job #guarddog

Oops! Caught sleeping on the job.

Is it lunchtime yet?

Is it lunchtime yet?

Stick it straight out Dulce, don't curl it.

Stick it straight out Dulce, don’t curl it.


Being an artist and running a foundation are tough work! I’m so glad I was able to help while serving as eye candy for the rest of the office. I had a great summer in California and learned a lot, like how I am the cutest dog on both coasts and I have a better wardrobe than Isabel. I was so happy to leave my mark at IAF (I peed in every corner). Thanks for having me!

If you’d like to meet Isabel too, be sure to check out her touring schedule this fall! She’ll be in Europe and all across the USA debuting her new book The Japanese Lover. The tour schedule is here.


Check out more of my adventures in the Bay and at home in NYC, and follow me here. Guau Guau for now! And remember: always try to come out on top.

I'm on top guys!

I’m on top guys!


10 Things I learned About Isabel Through Photos

This summer, while I am on maternity leave, we have Candy Pilar Godoy helping at the office. We asked her to write her impressions and here is what she had to say:

This summer, I was given the task of scanning, archiving and organizing photos from Isabel’s many family albums. There were hundreds of photos spanning her entire life, from before Isabel’s birth to present day. Here are 10 things I learned about Isabel from some of the photos I encountered.

1. Isabel has always been a dog lover.

Isabel’s love for animals, especially dogs, was evident when I saw her with her rescue dog Dulce, and the recently departed Olivia. I’m not surprised to see that this love goes way back. Here she is as an infant with family dog Pelvina López Pun.


2. Family has always been important.

Isabel has always had a tightly knit family, even when she was young. She visits her parents in Chile often, and spends much of her time with her son and grandchildren. Here she is with her mother, stepfather and siblings in 1954.


3. Her creativity flows in more ways than one.

Although Isabel is known for her books, her creativity is not limited to the written word. From beadwork, to acting, to playwriting, to cooking, Isabel expresses herself in a myriad of ways. It’s in her blood—her mother is an avid painter to this day.


4. She has always been a hard worker.

Before publishing her first novel in 1982, Isabel worked as a TV personality, a dramatist and a journalist. She was always determined to work, calling herself a true feminist from the start.


5. She was born around politics.

Isabel’s father worked for the Chilean embassy, her stepfather was a diplomat and her uncle was the former President of Chile. She fled Chile after the military coup in 1973 when her family was targeted. Politics has surrounded her through much of her life.


6. She has a great sense of humor.

She is charming, funny, sassy and quick-witted. Her books are a pleasure to read, but seeing her speak in person is truly fantastic.


7. Her relationship with her mother is incredibly strong.

Isabel and her mother still write to each other every day. They have kept all of their letters, which were sent across oceans and borders for years. They confide in each other about everything; they are best friends.


8. She is a proud feminist.

Isabel has been a self-proclaimed feminist since she was very young. She has worked for and with women all of her life. She continues to fight for the education and empowerment of women to this day, through the Isabel Allende Foundation, which focuses on achieving a world in which women and girls enjoy economic and social justice, empowerment and protection.

Here she is with the seven other powerful and successful female flag bearers at the Opening Ceremony of the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy (left to right): Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai of Kenya, American actress and activist Susan Sarandon, human rights activist Somaly Mam of Cambodia, Olympic champion Nawal El Moutawakel of Morocco, Italian actress-icon Sophia Loren, Olympic champion Manuela di Centa of Italy and Olympic champion Maria Mutola of Mozambique.


9. She was involved in the making of her books to movies.

The House of the Spirits and Of Love and Shadows, two books written by Isabel, were both made into feature films. Isabel was involved in both, visiting on set, reading scripts and speaking to the actors portraying her characters. Here she is with the cast and director of The House of the Spirits in 1995.


10. She is an academic.

Isabel has received 14 international honorary doctorates, and has taught Creative Writing and Latin American Literature to many, many, students. She belongs to the Academy of Arts and Letters and has always felt that education is important, and has made it a priority in her own life.



Ghosts and Saints

Isabel’s friend Pia, who lives in Chile, has always been a powerful force. I have met her several times and each time I felt…unnerved, maybe? I am not sure how to describe it. Maybe it was more a feeling of awe, since Isabel has told me years ago that Pia can see ghosts.

Here are a few ghost stories I got Isabel to repeat:

My grandmother was a crazy-crazy and beautiful and wonderful woman, who spent her life experimenting with the paranormal. She would, for example, train herself and her friends to use telepathy instead of the phone. It didn’t always work but at least they tried. They also had seances. So I grew up in a house where the idea of spirits visiting was familiar in a way. So when I use that in my books people think that it is a literary device. Or they think I really see ghosts. It is something different—it is the idea that I am open to the possibility of other dimensions of reality, as my grandmother would say, and I know that some people can see extraordinary things. 


Isabel and Pia

My friend Pia can see when someone is going to die; she feels it. It is a very strong feeling that almost never fails, so she is very scared of it. We keep in touch always and I adore her. Pia once told me that she was very worried about her husband Gerardo. She said, “He is going crazy, you know he says that at night these tall Africans come to visit. Masai warriors, two of them, and a child. The child always sits on the night table. I don’t know what he is talking about. I have not seen anybody like that. I only see the British ladies that walk through the walls.” 

Pia lives in a very old farmhouse with very thick walls and she has a huge collection of beautiful old saints, life-size, carved in wood with wigs and clothes and glass eyes, very realistic and beautiful. She has one, Saint Anthony, and according to everyone, not just Pia, St. Anthony walks around the house at night. And so they have had to tie him to the wall with a chain. Houses all around get broken into but no one would dare break into Pia’s house because they all know there is a saint protecting it. 


Once Pia and my mother were visiting us from Chile and we took them to a winery in Napa Valley as a treat. The drive was long and by the time we got to the vineyard we all needed to use the loo. The bathroom was located on the second floor of the estate but Pia would not go up the stairs. She would not go near the pool either. My mother and I, who were used to Pia’s idiosyncrasies, decided to go on with the day. Lunch was provided for us by the owner of the estate, who proceeded to tell us the story of how the place was haunted. According to the owner, a woman haunted the winery and wandered the estate at all hours. Although Pia does not speak any English, with my help she was able to make out a little of the story. Pia said it was a young woman in a pink dress haunting the estate, and the owner said yes, that is her! She was the daughter of the former owner and she committed suicide after her son drowned in the pool. And so Pia, who didn’t know anything about this story, had seen both ghosts. She told us that the woman was standing on the stairs and that is why she would not go up the stairs. As for the boy, Pia saw him outside by the pool. 


So, do they exist? I don’t know. Maybe it is all in our minds but the possibility is nice—that there is a connection of some kind. I often feel, very vividly, my daughter. I don’t see her but I feel her presence. 

The photo above is one I found of a wooden Saint Anthony that I imagine is similar to the one in Pia’s house. I briefly researched the winery in Napa Valley but could not find any story about a child’s drowning or his mother’s suicide. There are several wineries that claim to be haunted, however, and a few are linked to a suicide on the premises. You never know. I like hearing these tales, much like I enjoy reading a good Ray Bradbury story or even stories by Edith Wharton, who wrote some very spooky ghost tales. Hmmmm, Maybe Isabel should write a ghost story?


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