Sandra Cisneros burst onto the literary scene in 1983 with the publication of The House on Mango Street. A series of vignettes told from the perspective of a young girl growing up in Chicago, the book has sold more than two million copies, distinguishing Cisneros as the most widely read Latina author in America.
Born in 1954, Cisneros grew up in Chicago, the child of a Mexican father and a Chicana mother, and sister to six brothers. She was “Daddy’s princess,” she says, and struggled against her father’s traditional vision for his daughter. Her latest novel, Caramelo (2002), began as a short story in which she set out to understand her father and his traditional views more fully. Over nine years, it became not only a way for Cisneros to recapture her own memories, but also a tome of Mexican and American history. The New York Review of Books describes her writing as “vivid… boisterous…playful…a delicious reminder that ‘American’ applies to plenty of territory beyond the borders of the United States.”
Cisneros is the author of three books of fiction: The House on Mango Street (1983), Woman Hollering Creek and Other Stories (1991), and Caramelo (2002); three books of poetry: Bad Boys (1980), My Wicked Wicked Ways (1987), and Loose Woman (1994); and Hairs/Pelitos (1994), a children’s book. Her work has been translated into ten languages and published throughout the world. Among her honors are a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship and two NEA fellowships. She lives in San Antonio, Texas.
Excerpt taken from The House on Mango Street (1983)
“Four Skinny Trees”
They are the only ones who understand me. I am the only one who understands them. Four skinny trees with skinny necks and pointy elbows like mine. Four who do not belong here but are here. Four raggedy excuses planted by the city. From our room we can hear them, but Nenny just sleeps and doesn’t appreciate these things.
Their strength is secret. They send ferocious roots beneath the ground. They grow up and they grow down and grab the earth between their hairy toes and bite the sky with violent teeth and never quit their anger. This is how they keep.
Let one forget his reason for being, they’d all droop like tulips in a glass, each with their arms around the other. Keep, keep, keep, trees say when I sleep. They teach.
When I am too sad and too skinny to keep keeping, when I am a tiny thing against so many bricks, then it is I look at trees. When there is nothing left to look at on this street. Four who grew to despise concrete. Four who reach and do not forget to reach. Four whose only reason is to be and be.
Selected WorkCaramelo (2002) Hairs/Pelitos (1994)Loose Woman (1994)Woman Hollering Creek and Other Stories (1991)My Wicked Wicked Ways (1987)The House on Mango Street (1983)Bad Boys (1980)
LinksSandra Cisneros: Teacher Resource FileCaramelo audio on Salon.comSandra Cisneros: The Academy of American Poets