Sandra Cisneros says that one purpose of her stories is to help readers to see one another more sympathetically and so to be more forgiving. What are some examples of stories and incidents that serve this purpose?
Caramelo opens with this statement: “Tell me something, even if it is a lie.” Think of examples of characters telling stories about themselves and others, whether they are true or false. In which examples is the storytelling hurtful and in which is it helpful? What makes the difference?
Many of Cisneros’s stories offer comparisons between two or more cultures, especially Anglo-American, Mexican American, and Mexican. What features stand out as distinctive in each culture? What points of comparison does Cisneros emphasize?
Cisneros’s female characters, especially in The House on Mango Street and Caramelo, often struggle for self-realization against the expectations for women in traditional Mexican culture. What does traditional Mexican culture expect of women? Consider the motives of her main female rebels against tradition. What factors make their rebellions difficult and painful? What factors go into a successful rebellion?
Cisneros’s Mexican and Mexican American characters often seem ambivalent about their American Indian ancestry. What are some examples of these ambivalent feelings? What reasons does Cisneros suggest for this ambivalence?
In several of her stories, Cisneros mixes a good deal of Spanish in with the English. How does this mixing of languages affect the reading experience for an English-speaking reader? Why do you think Cisneros does this? For one example, what themes emerge when one studies the meanings and uses of the word, “caramelo,” in Caramelo?
Other Literary Forms
Sandra Cisneros is known for her poetry as well as her short fiction. She has published several collections of poems, including Bad Boys (1980), My Wicked, Wicked Ways (1987), and Loose Woman (1994); much of her poetry remains uncollected and unpublished, according to the author’s wishes. She has also published a series of essays explaining her own creative processes as a writer in The Americas Review. In addition, she published Hairs = Pelitos (1984), a children’s book illustrated by Terry Ybanez which expands on the chapter “Hairs” featured in The House on Mango Street.
Together with authors such as Ana Castillo, Denise Chávez, and Alma Villanueva, Sandra Cisneros is one of the literary voices that emerged in the 1980’s and was responsible for securing for Chicana fiction a place in mainstream American literature. Her collection of short stories Woman Hollering Creek, and Other Stories was the first work by and about Chicanas—that is, Mexican American women—to receive a contract with a major publishing house (Random House). Cisneros was awarded the Before Columbus American Book Award and the PEN Center West Award for her first collection of short fiction, The House on Mango Street. She is a two-time recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship for Creative Writers for her poetry and fiction. In 1985, Cisneros received a Dobie-Paisano Fellowship. She was granted a MacArthur Fellowship in 1995.
Other literary forms
Sandra Cisneros (sihs-NEHR-ohs) is known largely for her fiction. Her first published novel, The House on Mango Street (1984), is canonical reading for middle school, high school, and college students in the United States. She received a $100,000 advance for her collection of short stories, Woman Hollering Creek, and Other Stories, published in 1991. Cisneros published a bilingual picture book for children, Hairs = Pelitos, based on a vignette from The House on Mango Street, in 1994. Her most ambitious work, the novel Caramelo: Or, Puro Cuento, was published in 2002. Vintage Cisneros (2004) includes selections of poetry and fiction from her other works.
A graduate of the prestigious University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop, Sandra Cisneros received two grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, one for fiction (1982) and one for poetry (1987), and a...
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