Marie Arana

Marie Arana is a Washington, D.C.- and Lima, Peru-based journalist and author.

Selected Works:

American Chica: Two Worlds, One ChildhoodCellophaneLima Nights


2001 National Book Award finalist and PEN/Memoir Award finalist (American Chica: Two Worlds, One Childhood), 2006 John Sargent Prize finalist (Cellophane)

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Which one or two American books or plays would you yourself recommend to the foreign leaders?

I would recommend Maxine Hong Kingston's Warrior Woman, which showed us a dazzling, new way to be an American; and I would urge them to read Bernard Malamud's The Assistant, for its deep insights into America's immigrant culture and our abiding obsession with "belonging."

Who in your childhood–for example, parent or teacher—encouraged you to read books, and which one or two books do you remember most fondly?

My mother, an American married to a Peruvian, who was trying to teach her children about the larger world, made an enormous impact on my reading habits. She introduced us to Joseph Conrad early on, figuring that he, too, was a cultural transplant who kept his eyes open and made keen, original observations about the nature of man. She also taught us to love Rudyard Kipling, whose fey humor and adventurous soul made a huge impression on us. Conrad's short stories and Kipling's poems were an integral part of our childhood in Peru.

Which books by writers of the other G8 countries (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom) have been most important to you as a writer? 

I don't think I would have become a writer if I had not read seminal works by the following writers: Gustave Flaubert (Madame Bovary), Leo Tolstoy (Anna Karenina), Vladimir Nabokov (Speak, Memory), Margaret Atwood (The Handmaid's Tale), Jane Austen (Pride and Prejudice), Italo Calvino (If on a Winter's Night a Traveler) and Yasunari Kawabata (A Thousand Cranes). Reading these as a youngster, I was persuaded that good stories trump cultural differences. They hold the key to human understanding.

What is the Power of the Word Exhibit?

Power of the Word: Leaders, Readers and Writers is the first online exhibition of The American Writers Museum. As world leaders gather in the U.S. this spring, The American Writers Museum Foundation is inviting American writers and readers to explore the power of the word and join in a discussion of how American books can help readers in other parts of the world better understand our culture.

Leaders Gallery

An exploration into what some of the world’s most powerful leaders like to read, and how reading has influenced them.

Writers Gallery

American writers comment on their early experiences with reading and name the books they think world leaders should read in order to better understand American culture.

Readers Gallery

An interactive, open forum where readers are invited to join the discussion by answering the question: Which American works of literature do you think leaders from other nations should read in order to gain a better understanding of America?

We would like to thank our exhibit sponsors for their generous support:


What is The American Writers Museum?

The mission of The American Writers Museum Foundation is to establish the first national museum in the United States dedicated to engaging the public in celebrating American writers and exploring their influence on our history, our identity, our culture and our daily lives. Learn more at