Marie Arana

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Marie Arana
Arana speaking at the Peruvian Embassy in Washington, DC in 2010
Arana speaking at the Peruvian Embassy in Washington, DC in 2010
BornMarie Arana Campbell
Lima, Peru
OccupationAuthor (fiction and nonfiction), Critic
GenreAmerican literature
Notable worksAmerican Chica, "Cellophane," Lima Nights," "The Writing Life," "Bolívar: American Liberator"

Marie Arana (born Lima, Peru) is an author, editor, journalist, literary critic, and member of the Scholars Council at the Library of Congress.[1]


Marie Arana was born in Peru, the daughter of Jorge Arana Cisneros, a Peruvian born civil engineer, and Marie Elverine Clapp, an American from Kansas and Boston, whose family has deep roots in United States. She moved with her parents to the United States at the age of 9, achieved her B.A. in Russian at Northwestern University, her M.A. in linguistics at Hong Kong University, a certificate of scholarship at Yale University in China, and began her career in book publishing, where she was vice president and senior editor at Harcourt Brace and Simon & Schuster.

For more than a decade she was the editor in chief of "Book World", the book review section of The Washington Post, during which time she instituted the partnership of The Washington Post with the White House (First Lady Laura Bush) and the Library of Congress (Dr. James H. Billington, Librarian of Congress) in hosting the annual National Book Festival on the Washington Mall. She is currently Co-Director of the National Book Festival.[2] Arana is a Writer at Large for The Washington Post. She is married to Jonathan Yardley, the Post's chief book critic, and has two children from a previous marriage, Lalo Walsh and Adam Ward; as well as two stepchildren, Jim Yardley and Bill Yardley.

Marie Arana is the author of a memoir about a bicultural childhood American Chica: Two Worlds, One Childhood (finalist for the 2001 National Book Award as well as the Martha PEN/Albrand Award for the Art of the Memoir); editor of a collection of Washington Post essays about the writer's craft, The Writing Life (2002); and the author of Cellophane (a satirical novel set in the Peruvian Amazon, published in 2006, and a finalist for the John Sargent Prize). Her most recent novel, published in January 2009, is Lima Nights (its Spanish edition [2013] was selected by El Comercio's chief book critic as one of the best five novels of 2013 in Peru. Arana's most recent book is "Bolívar: American Liberator," a biography of the South American revolutionary leader and founder Simon Bolivar[3] The book was published by Simon and Schuster in April 2013.[4][5] It won the 2014 Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Biography.[6] She has written introductions for many books, among them a National Geographic book of aerial photographs of South America, Through the Eyes of the Condor. and she is a frequent spokesperson on Hispanic issues, Latin America, and the book industry.

Arana has served on the board of directors of the National Book Critics Circle and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists. For many years, she has directed literary events for the Americartes Festivals at the Kennedy Center. She has been a judge for the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award as well as for the National Book Critics Circle. Her commentary has been published in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the "Virginia Quarterly Review," USA Today, Civilization, Smithsonian magazine, National Geographic, and numerous other literary publications throughout the Americas.

Arana was a Fellow at the Hoover Institute at Stanford University in 1996 and then again in 1999, an Invited Research Scholar at Brown University in 2008-2009. In October 2009, Arana received the Alumna Award of the Year at Northwestern University.[7]

In April 2009, Arana was named John W. Kluge Distinguished Scholar at the Library of Congress through 2010. In September 2009, she was elected to the Scholars' Council of the Library of Congress as well as the Board of Directors of the National Book Festival.

Arana was scriptwriter for the Latin American portion of the film "Girl Rising," which describes the life of Senna, a 14-year-old girl in the Andean gold-mining town of La Rinconada. At 17,000 feet above sea level, it is the highest human habitation in the world. The film was part of a campaign to promote the importance of girls' education. Arana's writing about that experience, which was published in The Best American Travel Writing 2013, was named one of "the most gripping and sobering" of the year.

In March 2015, Arana directed the Iberian Suite Festival Literary Series for the Kennedy Center. In the course of seven programs, she featured more than two dozen Spanish-language and Portuguese-language writers from around the world.

In October 2015, Arana was named Chair of the Cultures of the Countries of the South, an honorary post at the John W. Kluge Center of the Library of Congress. She is currently an expert advisor to national and international outreach programs of the Library of Congress, Senior Advisor to the Librarian of Congress, as well as Literary Director in charge of programming for the National Book Festival.


  • American Chica: Two Worlds, One Childhood. The Dial Press. 2001. ISBN 0-385-31962-2. - a memoir about a bicultural childhood; finalist for the 2001 National Book Award
  • The Writing Life: Writers on How They Think and Work: A Collection from the Washington Post Book World, editor, PublicAffairs, 2002, ISBN 9781586481490
  • Cellophane. The Dial Press. 2006. ISBN 0-385-33664-0. - a satirical novel set in the Peruvian Amazon; finalist for the John Sargent Prize[8]
  • Lima Nights. The Dial Press. 2009. ISBN 9780385342599. - a love story set in contemporary Peru
  • "Introduction by Marie Arana". Through the Eyes of the Condor. Robert B. Haas (photographer). National Geographic. 2007. ISBN 9781426201325.[9]
  • Stone Offerings: Machu Picchu's Terraces of Enlightenment, photographs by Mike Torrey, Introduction by Marie Arana, Lightpoint, 2009, Winner of the 2010 Benjamin Franklin Award, Best Art Book of the Year
  • Bolivar: American Liberator, Simon & Schuster, 2013, ISBN 9781439110195 - winner of the 2014 Los Angeles Times Book Award in biography.


  1. ^ "Marie Arana". Library of Congress. Retrieved 29 December 2012.
  2. ^ "Marie Arana". The Washington Post. 2012-03-27. Retrieved 2012-03-31.
  3. ^ "Marie Arana Examines Two Americas". 2011-04-08. Retrieved 2012-03-31.
  4. ^ "Marie Arana". The Washington Post. 2012-03-27. Retrieved 2012-03-31.
  5. ^ Bolivar: American Liberator, reviewed by Joseph J. Ellis, The Washington Post, April 5, 2013
  6. ^ Carolyn Kellogg (April 11, 2014). "Jacket Copy: The winners of the Los Angeles Times Book Prizes are ..." LA Times. Retrieved April 14, 2014.
  7. ^ Moore, Judy (October 21, 2009). "Marie Arana to Receive 2009 Northwestern Alumnae Award Oct. 22". Northwestern University. Retrieved 29 December 2012.
  8. ^ John Sargent Sr. First Novel Prize Archived 2008-05-31 at the Wayback Machine., The Mercantile Library Center for Fiction, 2006
  9. ^ "Through the Eyes of the Condor by Robert B. Haas, Introduction by Marie Arana, Random House, 2007". 2007-09-18. Retrieved 2012-03-31.

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