This is the very first book I ever read by Isabel Allende, and I’m glad I chose it because although it’s non-fiction and thus not typically her style, it explains her life, what Chile was like before and during her childhood, and how it’s changed and what it’s like today. I learned about her family and how they have influenced the characters in her books, particularly La casa de los espíritus (The House of the Spirits), her first and most successful novel.
As a Spanish speaker and educator, I am shameful to say that I really did not know much about Chile, this small country that’s part of a forgotten land to many foreigners. This book was the perfect guide to learning about the history of the country, the indigenous people, the immigration particularly after World War II, and how that impacted the country, right down to the military coup in 1973. Speaking of which, that chapter stood out the most to me, because of how brilliantly Allende narrated it. While I read this book for fun, I took this chapter and used it in my Spanish 4 class when we studied human rights. I scaffolded it and broke it down into two reading homework assignments and paired it with other authentic resources that the students enjoyed immensely. If you are a teacher and are interested these resources are available, so please visit the Buy Resources tab, because my students absolutely loved reading about this tragic event through Allende’s lens. This was not only because of her relationship with Salvador Allende and the pages talk about his demise but how she described it as if she was just a mere observer (which she was). Although she fled Chile, it was not immediately after the coup, and therefore she has been able to talk about this event in many of her novels, but each time through either a different perspective or using different specific examples of the brutality and oppression that the Chileans faced. This is not an easy thing to do, but Allende makes it work.
Therefore, if you are looking to learn more about Chile, Allende, and the connection between the characters in her story and her loved ones, then pick up a copy of this book today. It’s great for any age level taking Spanish 4 in high school or higher.