Ilan Stavans
Lewis-Sebring Professor
in Latin American and Latino Culture


Ilan Stavans was born in Mexico to a middle-class Jewish family from the Pale of Settlement. His father Abraham was a popular Mexican soap opera star. Living in Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East, he ultimately immigrated to the United States in 1985. Upon completing his graduate education in New York City, he settled in New England where he lives with his wife, Alison, and his two sons, Joshua and Isaiah. His journey is the topic of his autobiography On Borrowed Words: A Memoir of Language (2001). He received a Master’s degree from the Jewish Theological Seminary and a Doctorate in Letters from Columbia University. He was the host of the syndicated PBS show "Conversations with Ilan Stavans", which ran from 2001 to 2006.

He is best known for his investigations on language and culture. His love for lexicography is evident in
Dictionary Days: A Defining Passion (2005).

Stavans's work is wide-ranging, and includes both scholarly monographs such as The Hispanic Condition (1995) and comic strips in the case of Latino USA: A Cartoon History (with Lalo Alcaraz) (2000). Stavans is editor of several anthologies including The Oxford Book of Jewish Stories (1998). A selection of his work appeared in 2000 under the title The Essential Ilan Stavans. In 2004, on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of Pablo Neruda’s birth, Stavans edited the 1,000-page-long The Poetry of Pablo Neruda. The same year he edited the 3-volume set of Isaac Bashevis Singer: Collected Stories for the Library of America.

He has also displayed a strong interest in popular culture. Among other topics, he has written influential essays on the Mexican comedian, Mario Moreno ("Cantinflas")," the lampooner José Guadalupe Posada, the Chicano leader César Chávez, and the Tejana singer Selena, as well as a book about the board game Lotería! (with Teresa Villegas), which includes Stavans’s own poems. He was also featured in one of the Smithsonian Q&A books.

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Recipient of International Prizes & Honors
Guggenheim Fellowship
Latino Literature Prize
Chile’s Presidential Medal
Rubén Darío Distinction
among others


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