Sandra Cisneros Biography

Sandra Cisneros grew up so poor she says her neighborhood seemed like a war zone. There were broken buildings all around her that looked like they had been bombed. The empty buildings made her feel lonely. She was also very shy. And her family moved a lot, which meant that she never had lasting friendships. She also felt different from her classmates, who didn’t have to struggle to learn a new language and who looked much more like the people Cisneros saw on TV than she did. So she turned to writing to express her emotions. Her first novel, The House on Mango Street, proved successful because it was one of the few that captured Cisneros’ feelings about growing up Latina in the United States. Only when she was able to celebrate her sense of being different did she truly find her voice.

Facts and Trivia

  • Cisneros won the MacArthur Foundation Fellowship (often called the “genius award” and worth thousands of dollars) in 1995.
  • For two years, the San Antonio city council objected to the color (purple) that Cisneros painted her house. She didn’t care.
  • Her most recognized work of fiction, The House on Mango Street has sold over two million copies and has been translated into more than a dozen languages. Many schools use the book as required reading.
  • Cisneros lives with six dogs, four cats, and a parrot called Augustina.
  • When asked what makes a story good, Cisneros has answered that stories should make you laugh or cry. And if it is really good, she says, the story should make you do both.


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Last Updated on October 26, 2018, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 496

Sandra Cisneros was born in Chicago, Illinois, on December 20, 1954, the only daughter in a family of seven children. Her mother, Elvira Cordero Anguiano, was a self-educated Mexican American who kindled her children’s enthusiasm for reading by taking them to libraries. Her father, Alfredo Cisneros Del Moral, was a Mexican upholsterer who regularly moved the family between Chicago and Mexico City.

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In Chicago Catholic schools, where expectations for Mexican American girls were low, Cisneros was a below-average student, but she read voraciously and began writing early. After graduating from Loyola University in Chicago in 1976, she earned a master’s degree at the prestigious Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where she learned “what I didn’t want to be, how I didn’t want to write.”

Upon returning from graduate study to Chicago, she awakened to what she called the “incredible deluge of voices” that has become the hallmark of her writing. Her stories and poems reveal a variety of voices, Mexican American voices mainly, telling their stories in an exuberant mixture of English and Spanish.

Her writing career started slowly. She earned her living as a teacher, college recruiter, arts administrator, writing teacher, and lecturer. Her choice to remain poor in order to write puzzled her father and brothers and often caused her to wonder whether she was betraying her beloved Mexican American culture by choosing a nontraditional life. She...

(The entire section contains 496 words.)

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