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.