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Sandra Cisneros: 1954—: Writer Biography

Escaped Shame Through Books, Found Her Voice In Her Past, Earned Literary Acclaim And Fame




As the first Hispanic-American to receive a major publishing contract, Sandra Cisneros has provided a voice for she who had had none before, the Hispanic-American woman—or to use Cisneros' favored word—the chicana. "I'm trying to write the stories that haven't been written. I feel like a cartographer. I'm determined to fill a literary void," Cisneros told Jim Sagel of Publishers Weekly. In doing so,she speaks out against racism, sexism, poverty, and shame. Growing up a chicana in the poor barrios of Chicago, Cisneros knows these things well. She watched as the women around her gave up and gave in, accepting lives of second class citizenship, beholden to their fathers, their brothers, their husbands, and their priests. This wouldn't be Cisneros's fate. She escaped through language, writing her way out of that future. Along the way she has collected numerous awards and critical acclaim. The woman who proudly proclaimed she is "nobody's mother and nobody's wife," is in fact the greatest caregiver of all. She charts the map that shows chicanas and chicanos, women and wives, sisters and servants, the possibilities of freedom.

Sandra Cisneros was born on December 20, 1954 in a poor neighborhood of Chicago, populated mainly by Hispanic immigrants and hyphenated Americans. Cisneros and her family were of the latter category, Mexican-Americans or Chicanos. Her father, a Mexican native from a family of means had traveled to the United States in search of adventure. A chance visit to Chicago led him to Cisneros's mother, a Mexican-American from a working class family that had lived in the United States for many generations, working mainly on railroads. Love blossomed and Cisneros's father decided to settle in Chicago and raise a family of six boys and one girl. However, "like the tides," Cisneros told Publishers Weekly in 1991, they regularly moved back to Mexico to be near her paternal grandmother. And from Mexico back to another barrio of Chicago that looked to the young Cisneros like "France after World War II—empty lots and burned-out buildings," she told Publishers Weekly. The moving continued for many years. In "Ghosts and Voices: Writing from Obsession," an article for The Americas Review, Cisneros noted that her grandmother's Mexican home was "the only constant in a series of traumatic upheavals."

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