Clutching dogeared books, shiny hardbacks and ballpoint pens, more than 100 people, young and old, packed a tiny room at the East Los Angeles Public Library to meet distinguished Chilean author Isabel Allende as she discussed her new book as part of the library's effort to promote reading of authors from multicultural backgrounds.
After the 45-minute conversation Tuesday afternoon with the author, dozens stayed to shake her hand or request an autograph.
To Maria Olivia Salcido of Canoga Park, who recently received a degree in Spanish literature from UC Santa Barbara, Allende's literary work provides "motivation for women." "She is an important writer. . . . It is important that people come to see famous figures from their culture."
The East L.A. library and the county's entire library system has incorporated the "Read About Me" program, developed jointly with the Milwaukee Public Library and Miller Brewing Co. It seeks to enrich the multicultural collections at the library, increase literacy and promote multicultural authors.
"The program attracts more funds for books and materials in Spanish, things that validate the rich traditions of the Latino community," said Allende, rushing to the library room to escape the rain.
Before the book reading, county supervisors honored the Latina author at a brief ceremony, proclaiming Jan. 16 as "Isabel Allende Day."
Allende, named the Read About Me program's "author of the year" at the event, spoke at the Old Ticket Room at Union Station about the importance of promoting multicultural arts.
Allende is the author of the recently published work, "Paula," an autobiography that recounts the death of her 28-year-old daughter, who fell into a coma after contracting a rare disease, porphyria, in 1991. Allende began the book during months at a Madrid hospital, chronicling her family's history on a yellow pad while sitting at the bedside of her unconscious daughter.
Allende, who lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, is the author of the bestseller "House of Spirits."