Sandra Cisneros

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Sandra Cisneros in 2009

Sandra Cisneros (born December 20, 1954) is an American writer.


  • I think we are all gifted as children, but we aren’t gifted with the same gifts. In crowded, poor schools, an overwhelmed teacher can’t always help us discover what our gifts are. I am grateful my mom was a frustrated artist. At home we drew murals, created puppet shows, had craft hours, went to the library, visited museums. I’m certain without my mom, I wouldn’t have been an artist today.
  • It’s memorable because it makes you either laugh or cry. If a story’s really good, it does both. Sometimes it’s not the story’s fault if it doesn’t stay with you, because you’re too old or too young for it. I feel that, in the Native American sense, the story cycles; there are different times of your life that a story may come to you. You don’t remember it, and then you hear. it again or read it again later in your life, and because of what’s happened in your life it’s distinct from the first time you heard it.
  • I think my work still has a distinctive voice that is uniquely mine—and that voice is one of a person speaking Spanish in English. By that I mean that I write with the syntax and sensibility of Spanish, even when there isn’t a syllable of Spanish present. It’s engrained in the way I look at the world, and the way I construct sentences and stories. I was not aware of this when I wrote House, but I’m conscious of it now. What remains the same? Well, I am still as astonished by the world and as intuitive/foolish as ever, but I am aware that this is a good thing, and not ashamed of it as I was when I was young. The difference now is that I know myself. I think my writing is wiser, and, I hope, more complex.
  • If I had to speak about anything that was difficult in my life now looking back at it, I would say the most difficult part was how the world made you feel about being poor, about being a girl. And, later, how painful it was navigating the world as a young woman. A lot of times I found myself in disastrous situations because I was such an innocent/idiot. It left me damaged as a human being for decades. I think having been beautiful was a cross, and I’m grateful I’m no longer young and no longer beautiful in that same way.
  • The only reason we write—well, the only reason why I write; maybe I shouldn’t generalize—is so that I can find out something about myself. Writers have this narcissistic obsession about how we got to be who we are. I have to understand my ancestors—my father, his mother and her mother—to understand who I am. It all leads back to the narcissistic pleasure of discovering yourself.
  • I don’t take it personally. It has nothing to do with me, or with my book. The book is being taught because it is telling a story that has spiritual resonance at this time in history. It is serving a need, it is doing its healing, it is transmitting light, but I was just the conduit for that light, not the source. I am grateful that the timing was right for my labor to be recognized, and that the readers were ready to hear this story at this time. I am fortunate and blessed to be the flute, but I recognize and acknowledge I am not the music.
  • I like living in a town not dominated by cars. I like living in a small community where artists from around the world come and go. I like living in a town with big sky and big clouds, and where you can connect with things of the spirit easily. It’s both stimulating and peaceful all at once. It makes me want to write.
  • Of course I like to write about love, but then I’ll ask, how is Mexican love different from American love? I’ll look at the Mexican models of love, and that leads me to the true Mexican love. True love in Mexico isn’t between lovers; it’s between a parent and a child. Mexico is a very intense culture of sons adoring their mothers, and this is why I claim that Mexican culture is matriarchal. Because the one constant, faithful, inviolable, holy love of loves—the love of your life—is not your wife or your lover; it’s your mother.
  • In Chicana writing the love between a grandmother and a granddaughter is holier than the relationship between a mother and a daughter because the mother and daughter have to deal with the reality of the everyday, whereas the grandmother can be revered from afar. Especially if she’s dead, she becomes this mythic symbol in Chicana literature.
  • Language is much better than throwing stones; language is much, much stronger.
    • 1990 interview in Conversations with Contemporary Chicana and Chicano Writers edited by Hector A. Torres (2007)

interview (2021)[edit]

  • At this point in my life, I want to read the classics from the Americas, from Mexico, from women, from the working class, from the Indigenous communities, from everyone who hasn’t been allowed to the podium before.
  • Books are medicine. What heals me may not be the right prescription for anyone else.
  • It’s important that young people find the right books that speak to them at the right time, otherwise you might be encouraging them to dislike reading.
  • Even if a language disappears, I believe a worldview, a syntax, a cadence survives from which the conquering language builds upon, like the stones the Spanish conquistadores gathered from the Indigenous temples to build their Catholic churches. Something like that is happening in our poetic inheritance. Something old and ancient and sacred survives in the spoken word, which is fascinating for those of us who are word-workers.
  • For me the great shame and dolor of our times is the story of immigrant children.
  • I would never want to offend any writer by publicly admitting which books I’ve put down; it’s not the writer’s fault we didn’t click. Maybe the book arrived too early or too late in my life. If I sense a book isn’t likely to make me a better writer or a better human being, I release it. I have to. At 66 I haven’t got a lot of time left before I transmogrify into a maguey.

Quotes about Sandra Cisneros[edit]

  • A sensitive, compassionate witness, Cisneros re-creates the neighborhood in which she grew up, evoking the smells and tastes and feelings. The effects of sexism, poverty, racism, and the loss of culture and language are told with searing simplicity…Cisneros's telling is relentless, clear in its simplicity. Her anger is palpable, but no words of anger are actually written. Experiences about race and class and sex are put into word pictures. The entrapment of women is drawn in big, thick lines across the page. Sobreviviendo, bearing witness, out of love, so that what has been (and still is) will not be erased. The stories are pieced together like a quilt, arranged so that women can see how it is and has been, can see the lines of connection between themselves as women, as Chicanas, as poor people in the barrio, can think about how they might want it to be, how they could get there. That Cisneros, like Alice Walker and Gwendolyn Brooks, chose to piece her stories like a quilt speaks to the significance of the quilting process as a way of thinking. "Each day is a tapestry," Deena Metzger has written, the piecing a reflection of the structure of daily life.
    • Bettina Aptheker Tapestries of Life: Women's Work, Women's Consciousness, and the Meaning of Daily Experience (1989)
  • Sandra Cisneros is one of the most brilliant of today's young writers. Her work is sensitive, alert,

nuanceful. It is rich with music and picture."

  • At all times, Sandra Cisneros has penned poetry of utterly divine language and imagery.”
  • the poem "Poet's Progress" is to Sandra, reflecting on our lives...There is a great satisfaction that comes from being in the life that one has chosen. When I say, "Save me from a stupid life," I mean an unquestioned life, those unexamined choices that Sandra and I were both expected to make. We both chose poetry, which, to me, is the exact opposite of the stupid life.
  • Sandra Cisneros has a gift and an attitude we should all be grateful for.
  • All poets would do well to follow the example of Sandra Cisneros, who takes no prisoners and has not made a single compromise in her language.
  • Texts like the poetry of Sandra Cisneros were a lifeline. Here was a Mexican girl from Chicago who'd become a writer and traveled alone through Europe.
    • Erika Sánchez Introduction in Crying in the Bathroom: A Memoir (2022)

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