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My mother says when I grow older my dusty hair will settle and my blouse will learn to stay clean, but I have decided not to grow up tame like the others who lay their necks on the threshold waiting for the ball and chain. In the movies there is always one with red red lips who is beautiful and cruel. She is the one who drives men crazy and laughs them all the way. Her power is her own. She will not give it away. — The House on Mango Street
Biography / Criticism
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.
Works by the Author
- Caramelo, or, Puro cuento: a Novel (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
- Bandau, Anja. Malinche, Malinchismo, Malinchista: Paradigmen fur Entwurfe von Chicana-Identität. La Malinche: Ubersetzung, Interkulturalität und Geschlecht. Ed. Barbara Dröscher and Carlos Rincón. Berlin, Germany: Frey, 2001. 171-200. (German)
- Brady, Mary Pat. The Contrapunctal Geographies of Woman Hollering Creek and Other Stories. American Literature: A Journal of Literary History, Criticism, and Bibliography 71.1 (1999 Mar): 117-150.
- Brunk, Beth L. En otras voces: Multiple Voices in Sandra Cisneros' The House on Mango Street. Hispanófila 133 (2001 Sept): 137-50.
- Cruz, Felicia J. On the 'Simplicity' of Sandra Cisneros's House on Mango Street. MFS: Modern Fiction Studies 47.4 (2001 Winter): 910-46.
- Curiel, Barbara Brinson. The General's Pants: A Chicana Feminist (Re)Vision of the Mexican Revolution in Sandra Cisneros's 'Eyes of Zapata'. Western American Literature 35.4 (2001 Winter): 403-27.
- Cutting, Rose Marie. Power and Powerlessness: Names in the Fiction of Sandra Cisneros. Xavier Review 18.2 (1998): 33-42.
- 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 Multi-Ethnic Literature of the United States (MELUS) (Amherst, MA) 19.4 (Winter 1994): 5-35.
- Elias, Eduardo F. "Sandra Cisneros. " Dictionary of Literary Biography 122. Ed. Karen L. Rood et al. Detroit: Gale Research, 1992.
- Elliott, Gayle. An Interview with Sandra Cisneros. Missouri Review 25.1 (2002): 93-109.
- Estill, Adriana. Building the Chicana Body in Sandra Cisneros' My Wicked Wicked Ways. Rocky Mountain Review of Language and Literature 56.2 (2002): 25-43.
- Fernández, Morbila. La casa en Mango Street: Poética de lo cotidiano en Sandra Cisneros. Horizontes: Revista de la Universidad Católica de Puerto Rico 39.77 (1997 Oct): 97-107. (Spanish)
- Figueroa, Ramón. Ojos de chicana: Mitos mexicanos en la obra de Sandra Cisneros Garro. Ed. Javiér Durán, Rosaura Hernández Monroy, and Manuel F. Medina. Pensamiento y crítica: Los discursos de la cultura hoy. East Lansing, MI: Michigan State University--University of Louisville--Centro de Cultura Casa, 2000. 389-400. (Spanish)
- Fitts, Alexandra. Sandra Cisneros's Modern Malinche: A Reconsideration of Feminine Archetypes in Woman Hollering Creek. International Fiction Review 29.1-2 (2002): 11-22.
- Kanoza, Theresa. "Esperanza's Mango Street: Home For Keeps. " Notes on Contemporary Literature (Carrollton, GA) 25.3 (May 1995): 9.
- Kuribayashi, Tomoko 'The Chicana Girl Writes Her Way in and Out: Space and Bilingualism in Sandra Cisneros' The House on Mango Street'. Creating Safe Space: Violence and Women's Writing. Ed. Tomoko Kuribayashi and Julie Tharp. Albany, NY: State U of New York P, 1997. 165-77.
- Kusumoto, Jitsuko. Chikano no densetsu no kyojo: Ra Jorona/Naki onna no katari naoshi. Amerika bungaku to kyoki. Ed. Hironori Hayase. Tokyo, Japan: Eihosha, 2000. 301-16. (Japanese)
- Lewis, L. M. "Ethnic and Gender Identity: Parallel Growth in Sandra Cisneros' Woman Hollering Creek. " Short Story (Brownsville, TX) 2.2 (Fall 1994): 69-78.
- McCay, Mary A. Sandra Cisneros: Crossing Borders. Uneasy Alliance: Twentieth-Century American Literature, Culture and Biography. Ed. Hans Bak. Amsterdam, Netherlands: Rodopi, 2004. 305-21.
- Ochoa Fernández, Ma Luisa. Family as the Patriarchal Confinement of Women in Sandra Cisneros' The House on Mango Street and Loida M. Pérez's Geographies of Home. Evolving Origins, Transplanting Cultures: Literary Legacies of the New Americans. Ed. Antonia Domínguez Miguela. Huelva, Spain: Universidad de Huelva, 2002. 119-28.
- Phelan, James. Sandra Cisneros's 'Woman Hollering Creek': Narrative as Rhetoric and as Cultural Practice. Narrative 6.3 (1998 Oct): 221-35.
- Rangil, Viviana. Pro-Claiming a Space: The Poetry of Sandra Cisneros and Judith Ortiz Cofer. MultiCultural Review 9.3 (2000 Sept): 48-51, 54-55.
- Rosaldo, Renato. Sandra Cisneros: The Fading of the Warrior Hero. The Latino/a Condition: A Critical Reader. Ed. Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic. New York: New York UP, 1998. 644-48.
- Rojas, Maythee G. Cisneros's 'Terrible' Women: Recuperating the Erotic as a Feminist Source in 'Never Marry a Mexican' and 'Eyes of Zapata'. Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies 20.3 (1999): 135-57.
- Saldívar-Hull, Sonia. Feminism on the Border: Chicana Gender Politics and Literature. Berkeley, CA: U of California P, 2000.
- Sanborn, Geoffrey. Keeping Her Distance: Cisneros, Dickinson, and the Politics of Private Enjoyment. PMLA: Publications of the Modern Language Association of America 116.5 (2001 Oct): 1334-48.
- Simona, Marino. Sandra Cisneros's Bilingual House of Fiction: Open Doors and Closed Borders. America Today: Highways and Labyrinths. Ed. Gigliola Nocera. Siracusa, Italy: 2003. 230-37.
- Sugiyama, Michelle Scalise. Of Woman Bondage: The Eroticism of Feet in The House on Mango Street. Midwest Quarterly: A Journal of Contemporary Thought 41.1 (1999 Autumn): 9-20.
- Thomkins, Cynthia. "Sandra Cisneros. " Dictionary of Literary Biography 152. Ed. James R. and Wanda H. Giles. 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. 287-300.
- Vázquez, Cecilia. La mujer chicana y la importancia de su espacio en La casa en Mango Street, de Sandra Cisneros. Horizontes: Revista de la Universidad Católica de Puerto Rico 39.77 (1997 Oct): 89-95. (Spanish)
- Weddle-Mulholland, Katona D. Sandra Cisneros: A Cicana's Search for Identity. Publications of the Missouri Philological Association 24 (1999): 68-75.
- Yarbo-Bejarano, Yvonne. "Chicana Literature from a Chicana Feminist Perspective. " Chicana Creativity and Criticism: Charting New Frontiers in American Literature. Houston: Arte Publico, 1988. 139-45. Readings and Interviews
- Sandra Cisneros reads from The House on Mango Street, and Woman Hollering Creek, and talks about the Chicana experience in life and fiction (sound recording). Hosted by Tom Vitale. New York: Moveable Feast (Series), 1990.
Works in Languages other than English
- Wo jia zhu zai 4006 Mangguo Jie. Trans. Shanzhuola Xisiniluosi zhu and Baby Sui yi. Taibei Xian Xindian Shi: Bu bo zu: Zong jing xiao Nong xue gu fen you xian gong si, 2002.
- Das Haus in der Mango Street: Roman. Trans. Gerd Burger. Munchen: Goldmann, 1992.
- La casa in Mango Street. Trans. Paolo Zaninoni. Parma: Ugo Guanda Editore, 1992.
- Caramelo, o, Puro cuento. Trans. Liliana Valenzuela. New York: Knopf, 2002; New York: Vintage, 2003; Barcelona: Seix Barral, 2003.
- El arroyo de la Llorona y otros cuentos. Trans. Liliana Valenzuela. New York: Vintage, 1996.
- La Casa en Mango Street. Trans. Elena Poniatowska. New York: Vintage Books, 1994; México: Alfaguara Literaturas, 1995; Barcelona: Seix Barral, 2004; Trans. Elena Poniatowska y Juan Antonio Ascencio. Illus. Rafael López Castro. Santiago: La Nación, 1996.
- Una Casa en Mango Street. Trans. Enrique de Hériz. Illus. Oscar Astromujoff. Barcelona: Ediciones B, 1992.
- The eyes of Zapata = Los ojos de Zapata. Trans. Liliana Valenzuela. México : Instituto de México San Antonio, 2003.
- Érase un hombre, érase una mujer. (Woman Hollering Creek) Trans. Enrique de Hériz. Barcelona: Ediciones B, 1992.
- Grobman, Laurie. Rhetorizing the Contact Zone: Multicultural Texts in Writing Classrooms. Reading Sites: Social Difference and Reader Response. Ed. Patrocinio P. Schweickart and Elizabeth A. Flynn. New York: Modern Language Association of America, 2004. 256-85.
- Harmon, Mary. R. Contact, Colonization, and Classrooms: Language Issues via Cisneros's Woman Hollering Creek and Villanueva's Bootstraps. Professing in the Contact Zone: Bringing Theory and Practice Together. Ed. Janice M. Wolff. Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English, 2002. 197-212.
Las Mujeres: Sandra Cisneros
Information about the author and her works.
The author's official site includes articles, interviews, reviews, scheduled appearances, contact information and more.
Internet School Library Media Center: Teaching Cisneros
Links to biographies, lesson plans, and additional resources.
Report a dead link or suggest a new one by emailing email@example.com.
This page was researched and submitted by Kelly Mathias on 12/26/96 and edited and updated by Lauren Curtright on 10/7/04.