In This Article Sandra Cisneros

  • Introduction
  • General References
  • Interviews
  • Pedagogical Approaches and Materials
  • Resources for Secondary School Education

American Literature Sandra Cisneros
by
Danielle Haque
  • LAST MODIFIED: 30 March 2017
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199827251-0156

Introduction

The “About the Author” section of Sandra Cisneros’s second book, The House on Mango Street, includes the following description: “The daughter of a Mexican father and a Mexican-American mother, and sister to six brothers, she is nobody’s mother and nobody’s wife.” This autobiographical sentence epitomizes Cisneros’s oeuvre, acknowledging the significance of family and roots while defying stereotypes of Chicana women as defined by marriage and motherhood. Cisneros was born in Chicago on 20 December 1954. During her early childhood, her father moved the family between Mexico City and Chicago every few years, and Cisneros writes about how these perpetual disruptions and border crossings contributed to the cultural hybridity found in her work. Cisneros holds a BA from Loyola University and an MFA in creative writing from the University of Iowa Writer’s Workshop. She has written about how her experience as an outsider in her graduate program—as Chicana, female, and working class—shaped her work. Cisneros charted new literary territory through both the form and content of her writing, beginning with the publication of The House on Mango Street, a series of vignettes narrated from the margins of society that defies categorization with its experimental form and simple prose style. It was at the vanguard of Chicana feminism and one of the first works by a Chicana writer to enter the literary mainstream. Cisneros’s emergence in the 1980s was part of a larger movement of Chicana writing, including authors such as Lorna Dee Cervantes, Denise Chavez, Gloria Anzaldúa, and Cherrie Moraga. Debates about her work include criticism of her portrayals of Chicano men and culture, and accusations of self-exoticization and essentialism in her interviews and poetry. Cisneros has taught as a professor of creative writing at University of California at Berkeley, University of California at Irvine, University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, and University of New Mexico at Albuquerque. She has written novels, poems, prose pieces, and children’s literature, and for numerous periodicals. Her awards include National Endowment of the Arts Fellowships, the Lanan Literary Award, the American Book Award, the PEN Center West Award for Best Fiction, the Texas Medal of the Arts, and a MacArthur Fellowship. Committed to working on behalf of creative writers, Cisneros is the founder of the Latino MacArthur Fellows (Las MacArturos), the Alfredo Cisneros Del Moral Foundation, the Elvira Cisneros Award, and the Macondo Foundation. For twenty-five years she lived in San Antonio, Texas, and was known for her social justice activism as well as for painting her historic home a delightful and unlawful shade of purple. She now resides in Guanajuato, Mexico.

General References

Castro 2002, Day 2002, and Brackett 2011 include brief critical summaries of her work and short bibliographies. Mesic 1992 provides a biography in addition to excerpts from book reviews, critical essays, and an interview. Several bio-bibliographical works focus on recurring themes in Cisneros’s work. Madsen 2000 uses biographical detail to read Cisneros’s work as articulating Chicana identity. Maätita 2010 considers motherhood and family dynamics. Quinlan 2001 investigates religious symbolism, theology, and faith. The most up to date places to find information about Cisneros are her own website, which also serves as a blog, and her Facebook page; both list upcoming events and post articles and reviews.

  • Brackett, Virginia. “Sandra Cisneros.” In The Encyclopedia of Twentieth-Century Fiction. Vol. 2, Twentieth Century American Fiction. Edited by Patrick O’Donnell, David W. Madden, and Justus Nieland, 499–500. New York: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011.

    E-mail Citation »

    Gives two-page summary of Cisneros’s biography and work, particularly highlighting The House on Mango Street. Includes suggested readings.

  • Castro, Joy. “Sandra Cisneros.” In Contemporary American Women Fiction Writers: An A-to-Z Guide. Edited by Rhonda Austin and Laurie Champion, 66–71. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 2002.

    E-mail Citation »

    Gives summary of Cisneros’s work, its critical reception, and a bibliography of works by and about Cisneros.

  • Cisneros, Sandra. Sandra Cisneros.

    E-mail Citation »

    Cisneros has her own website featuring a biography, news, and events, including appearances and readings. Provides her bibliography of books and essays, a list of recommended books, and links to reviews and articles written about her. The most enjoyable sections are the “Guestbook,” where visitors write messages which she often answers; and “Letters,” which includes letters she has received and answered, as well as acting as her blog.

  • Day, Lisa B. “Sandra Cisneros.” In Contemporary American Women Poets: An A-to-Z Guide. Edited by Catherine Cucinella, 60–64. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 2002.

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    Entry contains biography, major works and themes, critical reception, and bibliography.

  • Maätita, Florence. “Sandra Cisneros.” In Encyclopedia of Motherhood. Vol. 1. Edited by Andrea O’Reilly, 219–221. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE, 2010.

    E-mail Citation »

    Biography and critical reception, giving particular attention to Cisneros’s writing and interviews in which she speaks about her own relationship with her mother. Section on feminine resistance which analyzes the representation of mothers, daughters, children, and family dynamics in Cisneros’s work.

  • Madsen, Deborah. Contemporary Chicana Literature. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2000.

    E-mail Citation »

    Includes a brief biography and analysis of her oeuvre, connecting Cisneros’s work through her critique of both Anglo and Chicano patriarchies and her narration of Chicana feminist identity.

  • Mesic, Penelope. “Sandra Cisneros.” In Contemporary Literary Criticism. Vol. 69. Edited by Roger Matuz, 144. Detroit: Gale Research, 1992.

    E-mail Citation »

    Comprehensive biography until 1991; contains excerpts from critical essays by Gary Soto and Julian Oliverares; an interview with Pilar Rodriguez; and selections from reviews from Kirkus Review, the New York Times Book Review, the Los Angeles Times Book Review, The Nation, and Publisher’s Weekly.

  • Quinlan, Eileen S. N. D. “Sandra Cisneros.” In Catholic Women Writers: A Bio-bibliographical Sourcebook. Edited by Mary R. Reichardt, 58–62. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 2001.

    E-mail Citation »

    Provides biography, major themes, critical survey; emphasis on Cisneros’s rejection of misogynistic theology, and her incorporation of and subversion of tradition indigenous and Catholic mythology and symbols. Analyzes religious symbolism in her work.

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