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.