Sandra Cisneros did not have a "normal" childhood. "As
a person growing up in a society where the class norm was superimposed on
a television screen, I couldn't understand why our home wasn't all green
lawns and white wood like the ones in `'eave It To Beaver' and 'Father
Knows Best'" (Ghosts 72). She wanted desperately to believe that her
poverty was just a temporary situation, so she looked toward stories to
escape. There was a book, called The Little House, that she checked
out of the library over and over again. The house in the story was her
dream house because it was one house for one family, and it was permanent
Throughout Cisneros' life, her Mexican-American mother,
her Mexican father, her six brothers, and she would move between Mexico
City and Chicago, never allowing her much time to get settled in any one
place. Her loneliness from not having sisters or friends drove her to
reading and burying herself in books. In high school she wrote poetry and
was the literary magazine editor, but according to Cisneros, she didn't
really start writing until her first creative writing class in college in
1974. After that it took a while to find her own voice. She explains, "I
rejected what was at hand and emulated the voices of the poets I admired
in books: big male voices like James Wright and Richard Hugo and Theodore
Roethke, all wrong for me."(Ghosts 72). Cisneros then realized that she
needed to write what she knew, and adopted a writing style that was
purposely opposite that of her classmates. Five years after receiving her
M. A. from the writing program at the University of Iowa, she returned to
Loyola University in Chicago, where she had previously earned a BA in
English, to work as an administrative assistant. Prior to this job, she
worked in the Chicano barrio in Chicago teaching to high school dropouts.
Through these jobs, she gained more experience with the problems of young
Cisneros' writing has been shaped by her experiences.
Because of her unique background, Cisneros is very different from
traditional American writers. She has something to say that they don't
know about. She also has her own way of saying it. Her first book,
The House on Mango Street, is an elegant literary piece, somewhere
between fiction and poetry. She doesn't just make up characters, but
writes about real people that she has encountered in her lifetime.
Cisneros' work explores issues that are important to her: feminism, love,
oppression, and religion. In "Ghosts and Voices: Writing From Obsession"
she says, "If I were asked what it is I write about, I would have to say I
write about those ghosts inside that haunt me, that will not let me sleep,
of that which even memory does not like to mention."(73).
America has welcomed Cisneros like a cool drink of
water on a hot Chicago day. The House on Mango Street
started out without very high expectations, but over time it has become
widely known. It was awarded the Before Columbus American Book Award in
1985, and has been taught in a variety of academic disciplines including
Women's Studies, Ethnic Studies, English, Creative Writing, Sociology, and
even Sex Education. Even though Mango Street has been highly
acclaimed, her collection of poems, My Wicked Wicked Ways,
is perhaps the most widely read (Tompkins 37). Cisneros could be
considered a fresh new voice in Chicana literature. According to Cynthia
Tompkins of Arizona State University West, "Today Cisneros is perhaps the
most visible Chicana in mainstream literary circles. The vividness of her
vignettes and the lyrical quality of her prose attest to her craft." (Tompkins
40). Among other awards over the years, Cisneros received the first of two
National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships in 1982 that allowed her to
write full time. Hopefully Sandra Cisneros will be able to keep on writing
for many years to come.
Works by the Author
|Caramelo (2002) |
|Loose Woman: Poems (1994) |
|Woman Hollering Creek and Other Stories (1991) |
|"Do You Know Me? I Wrote The House On Mango Street." Americas
Review, 15 (Spring 1987): 77-79. |
|"Notes to a Young(er) Writer." Americas Review, 15 (Spring
1987): 74-76. |
|"Ghosts and Voices: Writing from Obsession." Americas Review,
15 (Spring 1987): 69-73. My Wicked Wicked Ways (1987) |
|The House on Mango Street (1983) |
Works about the Author
|Doyle, Jacqueline. "More Room of Her Own: Sandra Cisneros's The
House on Mango Street." The Journal of the Society for the Study of
the Mulit-Ethnic Literature of the United States (MELUS) . Amherst,
MA. Vol 19. No. 4. Winter 1994. pg 5-35. |
|Elias, Eduardo F. "Sandra Cisneros." Dictionary of Literary
Biography . Ed. Karen L. Rood et al. Vol 122. Detroit: Gale Research,
|Kanoza, Theresa. "Esperanza's Mango Street: Home For Keeps."
Notes on Contemporary Literature. Carrollton, GA. Vol 25. No. 3. May
1995. pg 9. |
|Lewis, L. M. "Ethnic and Gender Identity: Parallel Growth in Sandra
Cisneros' Woman Hollering Creek." Short Story. Brownsville, TX.
Vol 2. No. 2. Fall 1994. pg 69-78. |
|Thomkins, Cynthia. "Sandra Cisneros." Dictionary of Literary
Biography, Ed. James R. and Wanda H. Giles. Vol 152. Detroit: Gale
Research, 1995. |
|Valdes, Maria Elenade. "The Critical Reception of Sandra Cisneros's
The House on Mango Street." Gender, Self, and Society. Ed. Renate
von Bardelben. Frankfurt: Peter Lang. 1993. xiii, pg 287-300. |
|Yarbo-Bejarano, Yvonne. "Chicana Literature from a Chicana Feminist
Perspective." Chicana Creativity and Criticism: Charting New
Frontiers in American Literature. Houston: Arte Publico. 1988. pg
Mujeres: Sandra Cisneros
Information about the author and her works.
This site from the University of Deleware English Department has an
evaluation of the book.
"A House of My Own"
This is a short biographical piece written about Cisneros from Texas
This site from Skidmore College in New York contains some about the author
and a short quote from Loose Woman.
(From Voices from the Gap)