Woman Hollering Creek and Other Stories, Sandra Cisneros
Woman Hollering Creek and Other Stories Sandra Cisneros
Mexican American poet, short story writer, novelist, and author of children's books.
The following entry presents criticism of Cisneros's short fiction collection Woman Hollering Creek and Other Stories (1991) from 1994 through 2002. See also, Sandra Cisneros Criticism.
Published in 1991, Woman Hollering Creek and Other Stories is Cisneros's second book of short fiction. The stories in the collection explore the struggle of several women living near the border of Mexico and the United States to balance the patriarchal culture of their community and their need for autonomy and self-expression. Critics commend the collection for its innovative compositional style; in fact, commentators have credited the volume—which exhibits the overall completeness of a novel, the dynamic energy of a short story, the pointedness of a vignette, and the lyricism of poetry—with transcending the boundaries of traditional literary genres.
Plot and Major Characters
Woman Hollering Creek features twenty-two narratives that involve numerous Mexican American characters living near San Antonio, Texas. Ranging in length from a few paragraphs to several pages, the stories are first-person narratives of individuals who have been assimilated into American culture but feel a divided sense of loyalty to Mexico. Critics note that the stories can be grouped into three sections. The first category of stories concerns young girls, around the age of eleven, growing up in Mexican villages or barrios in the United States. In these stories, these young girls encounter the growing tension between their Mexican heritage and the demands of an American culture. In “Mericans,” Micaela attends a Mexican church with her grandmother and reflects on her disconnection with the Spanish language and Mexican customs; as an American, she feels alienated from both American and Mexican cultures. The second group of stories in Woman Hollering Creek includes adolescent girls experiencing an initiation or epiphany. “My Tocaya” chronicles the unsuccessful attempt of a young girl, Patricia, to escape the drudgery and servitude of her life, which is defined by working long hours under difficult circumstances at her father's taco stand. The third and largest group of stories explores the challenges of mature women struggling to act against familial and cultural pressures as well as traditional gender roles. In “Woman Hollering Creek,” a Mexican bride, Cleófilas, is given in marriage to an abusive, domineering man living across the border in Texas. After numerous beatings, infidelities, and humiliations, she manages to escape her husband and returns to her father's house—only to find herself subjugated by yet another controlling male presence. In “Never Marry a Mexican,” a young Hispanic woman expresses feelings of contempt for her white lover that are fueled by her emerging sense of inadequacy and guilt resulting from her inability to speak Spanish. “Little Miracles, Kept Promises” recounts the ridicule Rosario faces when she rejects traditional gender roles and chooses an independent, educated life.
Critics have identified the major themes of Woman Hollering Creek as poverty and cultural suppression, the search for self-identity, and the role of women in Mexican American culture. Misogyny, violence, domestic abuse, rape, and the limitations of traditional gender roles are recurring issues for Cisneros's female characters. As many of these women realize the soul-deadening restrictions of familial and cultural expectations, they struggle toward self-definition and control over their own destinies. In several stories, her heroines attempt to escape the patriarchal limits of their culture through education and self-expression. Commentators have investigated the roles that Mexican popular culture as well as mythical figures such as La Llorona, La Malinche, and the Virgin of Guadalupe play in the stories comprising Woman Hollering Creek. Borderland themes are central to the stories in the collection, and border crossing functions as a metaphor for several characters attempting to cross cultural and artistic boundaries. Critics contend that in her stories Cisneros perceptively depicts the situation of Mexican American women caught between two distinct cultures—a kind of cultural borderland.
Reviewers maintain that Woman Hollering Creek follows a structural and thematic pattern similar to her first collection of short fiction, The House on Mango Street (1983), but the female protagonists are more mature and complex. A few critics have deemed Cisneros's dialogue overly simplistic and contend that her recurrent portrayal of male violence toward women in her fiction presents an unflattering view of Hispanic life. Yet others have lauded these same elements in Cisneros's fiction, asserting that her distinctive literary and innovative techniques have been greatly unappreciated and that her concentration on cultural imperialism and women's issues has universal appeal. According to these critics, it is these aspects, in addition to her skillful prose, striking realism, and dynamic characterizations, that have established Woman Hollering Creek as a noteworthy and compelling work of short fiction.
The House on Mango Street (short stories) 1983
Woman Hollering Creek and Other Stories (short stories) 1991
Bad Boys (poetry) 1980
The Rodrigo Poems (poetry) 1985
My Wicked Wicked Ways (poetry) 1987
Hairs: Pelitos (juvenilia) 1994
Loose Woman (poetry) 1994
Caramelo (novel) 2002
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SOURCE: Lewis, L. M. “Ethnic and Gender Identity: Parallel Growth in Sandra Cisneros' Woman Hollering Creek.” Short Story 2, no. 2 (fall 1994): 69-78.
[In the following essay, Lewis classifies the stories in Woman Hollering Creek into three groups and asserts that the stories in the collection concern minority women who “find themselves confronting an external, dominant set of values.”]
Sandra Cisneros once characterized the stories in The House on Mango Street as “lazy poems” (“Do You Know Me?” 79). The collection is surely more crafted than lazy, but her latest collection, Woman Hollering Creek and Other Stories, grows dynamically beyond it in form and in theme. According to one account, Mango Street [The House on Mango Street] portrays only “two types of girls”: those who try to escape the patriarchal limits of their culture through education, and those who trade fathers for husbands, one patriarch for another (Olivares 164). In Woman Hollering Creek [Woman Hollering Creek and Other Stories], the protagonists grow in several ways, through several ages, from being defined by others, toward some self-definition, from confusion on the margins of two or three ethnic cultures, to a mature and expansive synthesis. In a parallel sequence, the same girl breaks away from a series of patriarchs, acquires a fierce independence, and...
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SOURCE: García, Alesia. “Politics and Indigenous Theory in Leslie Marmon Silko's ‘Yellow Woman’ and Sandra Cisneros' ‘Woman Hollering Creek’.” In Folklore, Literature, and Cultural Theory; Collected Essays, edited by Cathy Lynn Preston, pp. 3-21. New York: Garland Publishing, Inc., 1995.
[In the following essay, García contends that Leslie Marmon Silko's story “Yellow Woman” and Cisneros's “Woman Hollering Creek” are “two contemporary stories in which these writers recognize the importance of their indigenous heritage in relation to their thinking, writing, and identity as Native women in the 20th century.”]
As with any generation the oral tradition depends upon each person listening and remembering a portion and it is together— all of us remembering what we have heard together— that creates the whole story the long story of people. e I remember only a small part. But this is what I remember.
—Leslie Marmon Silko (1981)
In my writing as well as that of other Chicanas … there is the necessary phase of dealing with those ghosts and voices most urgently haunting us, day by day.
—Sandra Cisneros (1987)
One of the most important functions of Native American storytelling is its preservation of indigenous cultural traditions. In any given narrative or story, there is...
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SOURCE: Doyle, Jacqueline. “Haunting the Borderlands: La Llorona in Sandra Cisneros's ‘Woman Hollering Creek’.” Frontiers 16, no. 1 (1996): 53-70.
[In the following essay, Doyle examines Cisneros's utilization of the La Llorona myth in her story “Woman Hollering Creek” and argues that the story “charts psychological, linguistic, and spiritual border crossings.”]
Aiiii aiiii aiiiii
She is crying for her dead child
the lover gone, the lover not yet come:
Her grito splinters the night
—Gloria Anzaldúa, “My Black Angelos,” Borderlands/La Frontera1
“If I were asked what it is I write about,” Sandra Cisneros commented in a lecture in 1986, “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.”2 Poverty, the unrecorded lives of the powerless, the unheard voices of “thousands of silent women,” are some of the ghosts that haunt The House on Mango Street,3 dedicated in two languages, “A las Mujeres/To the Women.” Cisneros's narrator Esperanza chronicles the unhappy histories of...
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SOURCE: Carroll, Michael, and Susan Maher. “‘A Las Mujeres’: Cultural Context and the Process of Maturity in Sandra Cisneros' Woman Hollering Creek.” North Dakota Quarterly 64, no. 1 (winter 1997): 70-80.
[In the following essay, Carroll and Maher maintain that the stories in Woman Hollering Creek traverse artistic and cultural borders in that “her narratives unfold within a temporally variegated framework of Latina sisterhood, stretching back to mythic Aztlan yet detailing the very real confines of contemporary barrio life.”]
This is a powerful time we're living in. We have to let go of our present way of life and search for our past, remember our destinies, so to speak. Like the I Ching says, returning to one's roots is returning to one's destiny.
(Woman Hollering Creek [Woman Hollering Creek and Other Stories] 149)
Along with such other Chicana writers as Gloria Anzaldua and Pat Mora, for whom border-crossing stands as a major metaphor, stories that pivot on a sense of return are central in the work of Sandra Cisneros. In her first collection of short fiction, The House on Mango Street (1984, 1989), Cisneros binds her vignettes of life in a Chicago barrio through the central intelligence of persona/narrator Esperanza Cordero, a teenaged Chicana who must leave her dilapidated,...
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SOURCE: Griffin, Susan E. “Resistance and Reinvention in Sandra Cisneros' Woman Hollering Creek.” In Ethnicity and the American Short Story, edited by Julie Brown, pp. 85-96. New York: Garland Publishing, 1997.
[In the following essay, Griffin considers how cultural influences shape and limit the lives of the women in Woman Hollering Creek.]
In her prefatory poem to My Wicked, Wicked Ways, Sandra Cisneros asks, “What does a woman [like me] inherit that tells her how to go?” (x). This question about the cultural inheritance of Mexican American women and how it shapes their perceptions of the choices available to them is central to Cisneros' work. Throughout her poetry and fiction, she has depicted the material and ideological forces that circumscribe Mexican American women's lives.1 In her novel The House on Mango Street, and in several of the poems in My Wicked, Wicked Ways, Cisneros portrays women who are trapped by poverty and controlling, often violent, relationships with men. In her second book of fiction, Woman Hollering Creek and Other Stories, she explores the cultural as well as the material limitations of the lives of Mexican American women. Like Cisneros herself, her female characters often must come to terms with a cultural tradition that they love but also view as oppressive because of the limited conception of appropriate behavior for...
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SOURCE: Spencer, Laura Gutierrez. “Fairy Tales and Opera: The Fate of the Heroine in the Work of Sandra Cisneros.” In Speaking of the Other Self: American Women Writers, edited by Jeanne Campbell Reesman, pp. 278-87. Athens: The University of Georgia Press, 1997.
[In the following essay, Spencer views “La Fabulosa: A Texas Operetta” as a retelling of the opera Carmen and asserts that by allowing her heroine to live, Cisneros is subverting the traditional fate of strong female protagonists in opera and fairy tales.]
Take away the mantillas, the golden colors, the cigars—take away Egypt and the memory of Isis—and the tale you will hear is about any woman at all.
—Catherine Clément, Opera, or the Undoing of Women
Within the Western narrative tradition, female characters are commonly presented within the narrow confines of polarized roles limited to either madonna or whore, villain or victim. In a similar fashion, the fate of these characters also tends to fall to extremes. Depending upon the narrative form, the female protagonist all too often finds either an early end in death or an equally premature, if metaphorical, “demise” as she conveniently disappears into a cloud of anonymity after the hero has come to the rescue and married her. In so many plots, the appropriate denouement of dramatic tension...
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SOURCE: Phelan, James. “Sandra Cisneros's ‘Woman Hollering Creek’: Narrative as Rhetoric and as Cultural Practice.” Narrative 6, no. 3 (October 1998): 221-35.
[In the following essay, Phelan utilizes the dialogue form in order to explore the relationship between “Woman Hollering Creek,” Phelan's rhetorical analysis, and the cultural criticism found in The Practice of Everyday Life by Michel de Certeau.]
Note: This essay emerged out of my efforts to think about the relations among Sandra Cisneros's moving story, “Woman Hollering Creek,” the kind of rhetorical analysis I have done in the past, and the kind of cultural criticism suggested by de Certeau's The Practice of Everyday Life. I have adopted the dialogue form in order to avoid a false synthesis of the two approaches and to convey instead their sometimes converging, sometimes diverging, sometimes complementary perspectives. Although Cisneros is not an explicit speaker in this dialogue, I have assumed that “Woman Hollering Creek” is the most important presence: the speakers, RT (for “rhetorical theorist”) and MC (for “Michel de Certeau”), should be judged according to how well they are responsible and responsive to the story.
The positions and insights attributed to MC are frequently based on my interpretations of and extrapolations from The Practice of Everyday Life and so should not...
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SOURCE: Guerra, Veronica A. “The Silence of the Obejas: Evolution of Voice in Alma Villanueva's ‘Mother, May I’ and Sandra Cisneros's ‘Woman Hollering Creek’.” In Living Chicana Theory, edited by Carla Trujillo, pp. 320-51. Berkeley: Third Woman Press, 1998.
[In the following essay, Guerra traces the evolution of voice in Chicana literature through an analysis of “Woman Hollering Creek” and Alma Villanueva's poem “Mother, May I.”]
Silenciosa: adj. quiet: person, house, object: noiseless.
Silenciar: v. to muffle, hush up, to cast into oblivion.
So defines and translates the dictionary La Petit Larousse (García, Pelayo y Gross, et al., eds. 1980) the difference between the verb and adjective forms of this word. A derivative of this, “Silenciada” (silenced) forms the past participle form of the verb and can be used both as a participial adjective and as the passive form of the verb in what Noam Chomsky calls the Active/Passive Transformation.
Usually, both English and Spanish speakers use the word “silenciosa” (silent) as well as “silenciada” (silenced) to refer to women and children, as in “The children were silenced” or “The girl was silenced.” While the word “silencioso” (silent) is often applied to men, as in “the strong...
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SOURCE: Brady, Mary Pat. “The Contrapuntal Geographies of Woman Hollering Creek and Other Stories.” American Literature 71, no. 1 (March 1999): 117-50.
[In the following essay, Brady examines the representation of space in Woman Hollering Creek, arguing that “Cisneros's stories perform their critique of the production of space in multiple ways, within individual stories and through the interplay between and among them.”]
Driving down streets with buildings that remind him, he says, how charming this city is. And me remembering when I was little, a cousin's baby who died from swallowing rat poison in a building like these.
That's just how it is. And that's how we drove. With all his new city memories and all my old. Him kissing me between big bites of bread.
—Sandra Cisneros, “Bread”
The conclusion of Sandra Cisneros's “Bread,” a story from Woman Hollering Creek and Other Stories (1991) in which the narrator remembers an afternoon spent in a car with a lover, suggests that our perceptions of space evolve out of complex and disjunctive interpretive processes.1 As a mobile memory, a kind of drive-by narrative, the brief sketch moves toward this interpretive aporia and past it, implicitly critiquing the tendency to romanticize...
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SOURCE: Carbonell, Ana Maria. “From Llorona to Gritona: Coatlicue in Feminist Tales by Viramontes and Cisneros.”1MELUS 24, no. 2 (summer 1999): 53-74.
[In the following essay, Carbonell investigates the influence of the fertility goddess Coatlicue and the mythical Mexican figure of La Llorona in “Woman Hollering Creek” and Helena Maria Viramontes's “The Cariboo Café.”]
In Borderlands/La Frontera, Gloria Anzaldua discusses the significance of the pre-conquest fertility goddess, Coatlicue, to contemporary Chicana feminist struggles. According to Anzaldua, “Coatlicue states which disrupt the smooth flow (complacency) of life are exactly what propel the soul to do its work: make soul, increase consciousness of itself” (46). A psychic and emotional process foregrounding conflict and struggle instead of easy resolutions and compliance to social oppression, the Coatlicue state encourages Anzaldua to delve into the depths of her consciousness and acknowledge the negative forces affecting her life, among them racism, homophobia, poverty, and misogyny. Coatlicue brings suffering to the forefront of consciousness, providing a clearer vision as to whom or what to confront. She prompts Anzaldua to assert herself fully in the face of external psychic, physical or emotional violence so she will emerge completa or whole: instead of victimhood, Coatlicue encourages resistance against...
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SOURCE: Payant, Katherine. “Borderland Themes in Sandra Cisneros's Woman Hollering Creek.” In The Immigrant Experience in North American Literature: Carving out a Niche, edited by Katherine B. Payant and Toby Rose, pp. 95-108. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1999.
[In the following essay, Payant explores the borderland theme in the stories comprising Woman Hollering Creek.]
For a writer with quite a small oeuvre—a novella, a volume of poems, and a book of short fiction—Chicana feminist Sandra Cisneros has become widely read and known. Cisneros blurs lines between genres, calling her fiction, often vignettes rather than structured narratives, “lazy poems” (“Do You Know Me?” 79). Her Bildungsroman, The House on Mango Street, is read both as a young adult novel and as a work of adult fiction, and her most recent book of short stories, Woman Hollering Creek and Other Stories (1991), includes prose poems similar to those in Mango Street [The House on Mango Street], and longer works. Most of her fiction is composed as first-person narratives told to us by the central protagonist. She speaks for people like herself or whom she has known—Mexican and Chicana girls and women who grew up “on the borderlands.” According to Cisneros, “If I were asked what it is I write about, I would have to say I write about those ghosts inside that haunt...
(The entire section is 7523 words.)
SOURCE: Fitts, Alexandra. “Sandra Cisneros's Modern Malinche: A Reconsideration of Feminine Archetypes in Woman Hollering Creek.” International Fiction Review (January 2002): 11-22.
[In the following essay, Fitts discusses Cisneros's representations of three Hispanic female icons in the stories of Woman Hollering Creek: La Malinche in “Never Marry a Mexican;” the Virgin of Guadalupe in “Little Miracles, Kept Promises;” and La Llorona in “Woman Hollering Creek.”]
Sandra Cisneros's collection of stories Woman Hollering Creek [Woman Hollering Creek and Other Stories] (1991) depicts the situation of the Mexican-American woman: typically caught between two cultures, she resides in a cultural borderland.1 The topics of the stories range from the confusions of a bicultural and bilingual childhood to the struggles of a dark-skinned woman to recognize her own beauty in the land of Barbie dolls and blond beauty queens. While Cisneros does not attempt to force easy resolutions on such complex subject matter, she does search for a “place” that will respect Spanish and Indian heritage along with Mexican tradition without resorting to a nostalgic longing for a distant motherland (a Mexico that, in some cases, the characters have never seen). Her characters engage in a continual process of cultural mediation, as they struggle to reconcile their Mexican past...
(The entire section is 6210 words.)
Fiore, Teresa. “Crossing and Recrossing ‘Woman Hollering Creek’.” Prospero 1 (1994): 61-75.
Offers a thematic and stylistic analysis of the story “Woman Hollering Creek,” focusing on Cisneros's feminist intentions.
Gonzalez, Maria. “Love and Conflict: Mexican American Women Writers as Daughters.” In Women of Color: Mother-Daughter Relationships in 20th-Century Literature, edited by Elizabeth Brown-Guillory, pp. 153-71. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1996.
Explores the role of the mythical figures La Virgen, La Malinche, and La Llorona in the work of several Mexican American women authors, including Sandra Cisneros.
Additional coverage of Cisneros's life and career is contained in the following sources published by the Gale Group: American Writers Supplement, Vol. 7; Authors and Artists for Young Adults, Vols. 9, 53; Contemporary Authors, Vol. 131; Contemporary Authors New Revision Series, Vols. 64, 118; Contemporary Literary Criticism, Vols. 69, 118; Contemporary Women Poets; Dictionary of Literary Biography, Vols. 122, 152; DISCovering Authors: Multicultural Authors; DISCovering Authors 3.0; Encyclopedia of World Literature in the 20th Century, Ed. 3; Exploring Novels; Feminist Writers; Hispanic Literature...
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