A charming, tender memoir from an acclaimed Mexican-American author.




The making of a Latina writer.

Award-winning novelist, poet, and MacArthur Fellow Cisneros (Have You Seen Marie?, 2012, etc.) describes her first novel, The House on Mango Street (1983), as a series of discrete vignettes that could be read as a whole “to tell one big story…like beads in a necklace.” That description is apt, as well, for this warm, gently told memoir assembled from essays, talks, tributes to artists and writers, introductions, and poems, most previously published over the last several decades. “I am the only daughter in a family of six sons. That explains everything,” Cisneros once wrote as a contributor’s note. But she admits her identity has been shaped, as well, by her proud, stern Mexican father, “intelligent, self-taught” Mexican-American mother, and by her childhood in working-class Chicago. Although she exalts in her identity as a Latina, she realized on a trip to Mexico, when she was 30, that like other “naive American children of immigrants,” she was “filled with nostalgia for an imaginary country—one that exists only in images borrowed from art galleries and old Mexican movies.” Cisneros chronicles the creation of her first novel, begun in graduate school at the University of Iowa, when she was 22, and completed on the Greek island of Hydra in a whitewashed house with “thick walls, gentle lines, and rounded corners, as if carved from feta cheese.” Homes feature in many pieces: the apartments her family moved into, always looking for cheaper rent; the house they finally bought, where the author had a closet-sized bedroom; her house in San Antonio that she painted purple, raising objections from the city’s Historic and Design Review Commission. Besides reflecting on her writing, Cisneros discloses a period of severe, suicidal depression when she was 33; a tantalizing family secret; and eulogies for her parents.

A charming, tender memoir from an acclaimed Mexican-American author.

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-35133-1

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: July 7, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2015

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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