Ilan Stavans is an internationally known, award-winning cultural critic, linguist, translator, public speaker, editor, short-story writer, and TV host, whose best-selling work focuses on language, identity, politics, and history. Born in Mexico in 1961 into a Jewish family with roots in Eastern Europe, he was raised in a multilingual environment. His autobiography, On Borrowed Words, appeared in 2001, followed four years later by Dictionary Days.
He is best known for his research on English, Spanish, Yiddish, Ladino, and, in particular, Spanglish. In 2003, he published Spanglish: The Making of a New American Language, which includes a lexicon of approximately 6,000 terms and a Spanglish translation of the first chapter of Don Quixote. Subsequently, he completed a translation into Spanglish of Miguel de Cervantes's entire novel. He is the author of a couple of award-winning short-story collections, including The Disappearance, as well as the children's story Golemito. The internationally released, award-winning feature film, My Mexican Shivah, co-produced by John Sayles was based on his story "Morirse está en hebreo." And his story "The Disappaeranace," adapted to the stage by the experimental theater troupe DoublEdge, has toured the world.
Stavans is also the author of Resurrecting Hebrew, books on love and the Bible, and a biography of Gabriel García Márquez's career until the publication of One Hundred Years of Solitude. His work has been translated into fifteen languages. Readers of his work were published in English by Routledge (The Essential Ilan Stavans, 2000) and in Spanish by Fondo de Cultura Económica (Lengua Fresca, 2013).
As a translator, he has rendered in English Juan Rulfo's The Plain in Flames and Mariano Azuela's The Underdogs. He has also translated Borges and Neruda into English and Emily Dickinson, Elizabeth Bishop, and Richard Wilbur into Spanish. He is the recipient of countless awards, fellowships, and other honors, including an Emmy nomination, a Guggenheim Fellowship, the National Jewish Book Award, the Latino Hall of Fame Award, Chile's Presidential Medal, recognitions from the governments of Nicaragua and Peru, and numerous grants, including a couple from the National Endowment for the Humanities. His essays are published in periodicals such as the New York Times, El País, Foreign Affairs, Washington Post, El País, Le Monde, the Chronicle of Higher Education, the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Forward, the Times Literary Supplement, the Boston Globe, the Nation, and the New Republic.
Stavans is widely known as an anthologis. He is general editor of The Norton Anthology of Latino Literature and is responsible for, among other volumes, the Library of America Becoming Americans: Four Centuries of Immigrant Writing, The Oxford Book of Jewish Stories, the centennial edition of The Poetry of Pablo Neruda, the three-volume Library of America edition of Isaac Bashevis Singer's Collected Stories, and The Shocken Book of Modern Sephardic Literature. He is also editor-in-chief of the four-volume Encyclopedia Latina, a reference book about every aspect of Latino life in the United States, as well as the two-volume The Encyclopedia of Latin Music. He edited the poetry of César Vallejo and the speeches of Cesar Chavez for Penguin Classics.
He has collaborated with musicians, opera composers, cartoonists, philosophers, journalists, actors, filmmakers, translators, educators, and politicians in a variety of projects. He has been involved in museum exhibitions on art, photography, and folklore. Between 2001 and 2006, he hosted the syndicated PBS show Conversations with Ilan Stavans, which included a companion book.
Ilan Stavans joined the faculty at Amherst in 1993. He has also taught at Columbia, Oberlin, Mount Holyoke, Bennington, and Smith, among other institutions. An editor of the quarterly Hopscotch, he is a co-founder of the Great Books Summer Program at Amherst, Stanford, and Oxford, dedicated to introducing canonical works of world literature to middle- and high-school students. He has lectured extensively in Europe, Latin America, Asia, the Middle East, and all across the United States.