Ilan Stavans is an internationally known, award-winning cultural critic, linguist, translator, public speaker, editor, short-story writer, and TV host, whose New York Times 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.
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." His story The Disappaeranace, adapted to the stage by the experimental theater troupe DoubleEdge, has toured the world. And his own-man show The Oven has been seen in cities around the United States.
Stavans is also the author of Resurrecting Hebrew, books on love and the Bible, Dictionary Days: A Defining Passion, Quixote: The Novel and the World, 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).
His lectures on Don Quixote and on visions of the divine across cultures are avaialble from Recorded Books. He is also editor-in-chief of Oxford Bibliography: Latino Studies.
As a translator, Stavans 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 and Antoine the Saint Exupery's The Little Prince into Spanglish as well as portions of Hamlet. 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, the International Latino Book Award, and recognitions from the governments of Nicaragua and Peru, and numerous grants, including a couple from the National Endowment for the Humanities. His essays have been published in periodicals such as the New York Times, El País, Foreign Affairs, Washington Post, El País, Le Monde, Revista de Occidente, Chronicle of Higher Education, Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Forward, La Vanguardia, Times Literary Supplement, Boston Globe, The Nation, Words Without Borders, and The New Republic.
Stavans is widely known as an anthologist. He is general editor of The Norton Anthology of Latino Literature and is responsible for, among other volumes, the Library of America's 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 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 radio porjects with NPR and museum exhibitions on art, photography, and folklore at the Jewish Museum of New York, the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles, the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst, and the Yiddish Book Center, among other institutions. 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, Chicago, Oxford, and Dublin, 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.
He is the publisher of the award-winning Restless Books, devoted to bringing superb international literature in translation to English-langauge readers.