SANDRA CISNEROS Biography - Writers


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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 `Leave   
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 and stable.               
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 to that of her classmates. Five years after receiving her MA 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           
familiarity with the problems of young Latinas.                                         
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.