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I am the mother of two extraordinary daughters and the daughter of an even more extraordinary mother. I am a middle school language arts teacher in New Jersey whose main teaching objective is to foster a love of reading in each of my students.
My oldest daughter, Payton, just completed her first year of high school. She is staying for a few days with her grandmother, my mother. She texted me at work this morning to announce that she has been assigned The House on Mango Street as her summer reading selection. "We better get it from library quickly before another Sophmore checks it out," she warned. So I drove there after work today to find fourteen copies of it in our local library. I chose a hardcover version and brought it home along with a whole grocery bag of books for my seventh grader, Casey.
I just snuggled to read some before Payton returns from her grandmother's. Already, I am struck by so much - just from reading the intro. "It's true, she wants the writers she admires to respect her work, but she always wants the people who don't usually read books to enjoy these stories too. She doesn't want to write a book that a reader won't understand and would feel ashamed for not understanding." This! This is what I desire for my students - to read a book that "serves others", mainly the reader!
I am also surprised and saddened that while I thought the intro was about you, or maybe your father, it was really about your mother, another extraordinary woman who encouraged you to have no regrets and died after visiting your office. I am so sorry about that, as I dread that very day myself. What a beautiful gift to dedicate The House on Mango Street to her.
Never have I been inspired to write an author before reading a word of the actual book. Now I dive in.
Thank you for serving your readers.
What a lovely story. Thank you for sharing this. For the record, I will be in New Jersey this October for the Dodge Poetry Festival. Pass the word to your family and students. I hope to shake your hand one day.
vallejo california usa
hi ms sisneros for english i have too write my own vignette about how one of yours can relate to my life and i need pointers good thing were are both chicanos thank you
First, write as if you are talking to your closet confidante in your pajamas. Then go back and edit it. Remember to use capitals and periods, otherwise your prose looks like an e.e.cummings poem, which is not a bad thing if you are e.e.cumming, but looks like your are an imitator. Why be an imitation, when YOU are the real thing. Adelante.
Los Fresnos, TX
I was talking with a friend recently and described how first reading Woman Hollering Creek in college had changed my perspective on writing and literature. Growing up in a border area with 96% Hispanic students, we read Twain, Fitzgerald & Dickinson in High School. I had never heard my own words when reading. It was life changing. I just wanted to thank Ms. Cisneros for that, although long overdue.
Thank you, Rosemary. I adore all the writers you mention. It’s an honor that I was able to make a positive impact in your views of literature. Mil gracias for taking the time to send your gratitude. SC
I wanted to send a belated thank you. I heard you read and speak at Contra Costa College last Thursday. I was very nervous and initially did not want to ask any questions, but I thought "Ehh. What the heck. I will probably never have this opportunity again." I had three burning questions and could not pick one to ask. I shared all of them with the hope that you answer one, maybe your favorite or the one you could remember (I have a bad memory. I would not have been able to remember all of the questions if they had been asked of me). To my surprise, you gave me the gift of answering all three. I have written down and shared your answers with everyone who will hear me. Because of you, I know that home is where I belong and I still need to do some searching to find that place. I have a slightly better grasp of the shape love can take, especially among orphans. This has helped me make sense of Diego and Frida y uno de mis viejos amores.Finally, I now see doubt as part of the writing process, not the end. Thank you for your words and time. I forgot to say this in person when you signed my book and we took a picture, but I hope it is not too late and this message gets to you.
I look forward to purchasing and reading "Puro Amor."
Yes, I remember you! Of course. Thank you for writing. It was a moving return to northern California, and your questions all interested me. Mil y un thank-yous. S
Sandra en 1996 lei la casa en mango street y me encanto, soy una avida lectora y mi hija a seguido mis pasos en cuanto a la literatura y musica se trata, Felicidades por todos sus logros
Gracias, Alicia, por tu confirmación. Me regalas mucha luz hoy y te lo agradezco. S
Just want to send thanks to you for your stories and your willingness to share your brilliant writing. It gives me life and affirmation.
The book felt so affirming for me, a black girl who grew up in a neighborhood with people and circumstances that the rest of the world didn't care about. I can't thank you enough.
As do YOU! Gracias, Roberta. That’s the power of art working through you, me, all. We especially need to see ourselves in one another in these times!
Hello! Here is a letter from one of my students who performed as a declamation "My Name." I am sending it in her name.
Hi, Sandra Cisneros! My name is not Esperanza, like the girl in The House on Mango Street. My name is Lola from Argentina. I am at Tequesta Trace Middle School in Florida. On April 28, I participated in the Broward County ESOL Language Mastery Competition and one of my categories was Declamation. I did you story "My Name" from memory. I really loved that story. At the competition, I wore a T shirt that said ZEZE the X and when I finished reciting, I opened my jacket to show the T shirt. The Judges saw the ZEZE the X. I won a medal because of my English and because of your writing. I had problems saying some words, like chandelier, sobbing, baptize. But I had so much fun at the competition. Declamation was the best for me. Thank you for writing The House on Mango Street. I felt like Esperanza.
Ay, Lola, me matas con tu carta. I love it. I know you will do well but want to wish you the best. !Adelante con ganas!
St.paul, MN, USA
Hi, Ms. Cisneros, my name is Malee and I am in 9th grade. I am a fan of your works ever since I read the House on Mango Street in 7th grade. Your stories portray such beautiful characters and messages that leave me in awe. I just wanted to express my gratitude and appreciation for you. Thank you so much!
Oh, Malee, 9th grader from St. Paul. You give me hope in times of hopelessness. Thank you for this bright gift today!
“You’re an inspiration” doesn’t even come close. Thank you for your books, your activism, y muchisimas gracias por ser tu.
I thank you for your ánimo. I often don’t feet like an inspiration to me. I feel impotent and overwhelmed and saddened by what is happening to the poor at this time globally. So thank you. I do what I can and often feel it’s not enough.
Hello Ms. Cisneros,
I am hoping you can help me out. I teach "The House on Mango Street" to my classes and when we get to the chapter titled "Louie, His Cousin & His Other Cousin" we have a debate after listening to Jay and the Techniques song "Apples, Peaches, Pumpkin Pie". Can you please give me any insight into why you selected this song? I believe this song about love is actually more of a song about female oppression is a 1-way relationship. I think of Esperanza's grandmother is
Any insight would be great. Thank you,
Obviously you know more about this song than I do. I only chose it because the real-life girl the character its based on would sing this song. I have no other reason for having selected it, but you are welcome to analyze it as you see fit. After all, I am only the dreamer, but you are my analyst. I need YOU to tell me what my dream meant.
Thanks for writing.
Dedria Humphries Barker
Detroi, Michigan, United States
Dear Ms. Cisneros,
I read your interview with Sharon Lee in the Ploughshares blog this week and was captured by an idea you spoke. I so loved it that I told it to the poets who are at the Can Serrat art residency with me in Barcelona, Spain. The idea I am referring to is, and I quote, ' I know a poem is a poem when I have to invent new language for it."
That is wonderful.
Your interview is also going out on my Twitter feed, and I am thrilled to have a piece of substance. It is so difficult to be witty, bright and gay every time I go there. Thank you for helping me out.
I see you are also in the Ploughshares journal edited by the Iowa Writers Workshop director, Lan Samantha Change.
It's just a matter of time before you are back in the U.S., visiting or otherwise. I hope to see you then. The first and last time I heard you speak was in Chicago at 4Cs. That was a lot of years ago. You were wearing an awesome Mexican belt, but now I see you are channeling Frida Kahlo.
So great to see you in the spotlight.
Dedria Humphries Barker
Thanks for reading the interview, but lots of the credit goes to the young interviewer, who I met while in Taipei. Shereen isn’t even 18 years old and she’s already a spark of light. I loved her questions.
I am in the Midwest often, usually in Chicago. My next visit will be in October at the Mexican Museum to launch my new chapbook.
Thanks for writing, and I am not trying to channel Frida, but the Tehuanas of the ithmus of Tehuantepec in Oaxaca, whom Frida was emulating as well.
Hola Sandra, I am a middle school Spanish in Deerfield, IL and we are implementing a new curriculum next school year and we were looking to use one of your novels as a guide. Would there be any possibility that you would be available to be a guest speaker at our middle school next September? Any day as long as it's in the afternoon would be great! I read "House on Mango Street" several times in high school, and am a huge fan of your work. Let us know, I know it's pretty far out but we are trying to lock down our curriculum and would be so grateful for this opportunity!
I rarely get back to Chicago with enough time to do a school visit. But if you are interested, I am forwarding this to my agent. She will let you know if my schedule allows. Thank you. S
Bucerias, Nayarit, Mexico
My name is Esly Sarmiento, I am an English teacher in a small school near Puerto Vallarta. I am originally from Chicago first generation and recently moved to Mexico to give my family a better way of life. I am trying to get my students exposed to other ways of writing and reading. I read House on Mango Street when I was younger and wanted to expose my students to this book and this story. I was wondering if there was anyyy way we can get even a skype mini interview with Sandra. In Mexico we do not have a reading culture and I would love to get my students motivated by meeting someone who has written a book. We are in school until July 8 so if there was any way we can set this up it would be so amazing. I hope to hear back from you.
My skype connections in Mexico are so undependable, I’ve had to give them up altogether. Too stressful. The connection drops.
Also, I try not to be available to anyone when I am writing, and I came here to Mexico to write. It’s difficult to write anything worthwhile on the days I talk.
Will you allow me to write the books you enjoy? You can look on my website and see a few videos where I appear. Would that be of use to you?
I wish I could do more, but for more than thirty years I have been available, and now I am in sanctuary trying to be quiet and work.
Thank you for believing in my writing and taking it to those who need it. Right now my books are out of print in Mexico, but we are working on getting them republished.
Rapid City, South Dakota, USA
We're reading one of your most famous books, The House on Mango Street, and we're stuck on the discussion of which are your personal stories, which were your students, and which are fiction to create incite and cohesiveness in the story. We realize we can't have a play by play of what is occurring, but we would greatly appreciate some light to be shed on our situation. We really enjoy the book and talking about what is happening. Thank you for writing this notable piece of literature.
Concerned Students (Kyleigh, Hailey, Kenna, Sydney)
Hi, Concerned Students in Rapid City,
I cannot take every story apart, as there are many layers to each, but take a look at my last book A HOUSE OF MY OWN, for some insight on the matter. Each story is a collage of many lives, not simply lifted from my own life. That means, all the characters are me, and none of them are. I use my own emotions to understand stories that I witnessed or were told to me. Even if a story didn’t happen to me, I have to search in my heart for a similar feeling to write from a true place. I hope this makes it clear how one writes. It’s all created from real parts stitched together to make a “Frankenstein” from many lives.
Thanks for asking.
Boston, MA USA
Found your poem, By Way of Explanation, on the Knoph Poerty site. I am a songwriter. I liked the idea of using geography to define a person. I can see from some of your pictures, particularly the one on the cover of A House of My Own that you have many "looks" You have mostly likely been asked where you are from many times, as you can appear to be from the middle east, northern Africa, Italy, and Spain. My first guess would have been Lebanon. I now know of your Mexican-American connection and that too is one of the many looks you have. BTW, San Miguel de Allende is a lovely place. I am sure you enjoy living there for now.
I will try to take your poem written from a female perspective and change it to a male perspective, echoing similar geographic references to define the "woman" which is the subject of the song. I will let you know how it comes out.
I indeed come from many places, as my DNA has proven, but this poem was written decades before I did the bloodwork. Thanks for writing. Hope you write your own poem/song based on your own life. Art should inspire us to create art, and if I have done so, then I will feel fulfilled.
Hi Senora Cisneros,
After reading, and ultimately researching, your work, I felt the need to leave you a message of gratitude and appreciation. Your work is inspirational. It's refreshing to see a strong, bold and beautiful Latina author who writes on behalf of and for girls like me.
Thank you for all you have done and continue to do.
- Jessica Santamaria
May 2nd 2018
Thank you for writing and letting me know the work I do is valuable. So many writers never hear from their readers, and writing is lonely work. I am lucky beyond words! SC
La Grange, IL
This semester I am taking a Writing About Literature course that I dreaded having to take. To my amazement I got a professor who introduced me to the works of Langston Hughes, Carl Sandburg, Lorraine Hansberry and YOU.
Today, 2 weeks from graduating from Concordia University in Chicago at age 59, I can't imagine my life without having read your book. We grew up in the same area. I know Keeler, Paulina and Loomis. I know those bums on the corner and those nasty boys who ruined the romance of the fairytale and friends who went away.
I read your stories before I knew your name and I wondered, is this Ruthie Rios who used to live in the row houses in 1964-5? No, you aren't Ruthie, but I knew the brown shoes and the shoes from the people with little feet.
I just wanted to say thank you for helping to make this the best semester of my undergraduate years and for Esperanza's story that I have shared in these last few weeks with many friends.
I bid you peace and happiness and a big hug!
May 2nd 2018
Congratulations to you for your upcoming degree at the age of 59! Wow! You are an inspiration. Thank you for writing and for feeling at home on Mango Street. I always hope my readers will feel it’s their neighborhood. Your letter is a confirmation. Again, felicidades!
What is one word you hate so much that you will not let it be published in any of your books?
May 2nd 2018
None. I don’t hate anything, but I have strong feelings about what I call myself. S
I just love your work. :)
May 2nd 2018
Thank you, Maritza, for making my day! SC
Hello, my name is Paris Blando I am 15 Years old and I am in the 8th grade at community house middle school in Charlotte NC we are currently reading your book and I am enjoying it....... I know your culture and what you went through and I just want to say thank you for sharing that with me because I feel like I can relate to you
Sincerely, Paris Blando
May, 2nd, 2018
Dear Paris Blando,
I know your culture too, and I just want to say thank you for writing to me today, because I feel like I can relate to YOU!
Best to you,
Michelle Rodríguez Montás
San Juan, Puerto Rico
Right now, I am teaching a Basic Intensive English course at the University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras Campus until 9:20 p.m. I am standing in front of my students getting them ready to read your work, "No Speak English." I have projected your website and we have read your biography. Today and next Tuesday, we will be reading works by you. Next week, we will enjoy "Geraldo No Last Name." I have a small group of students who are eager to learn Englsh. Jovan Rodríguez, Brenda Villegas, Sonia Neris, Elizabeth Cirilo, and Carolina Guillermo are my students. They are all here and they send you a hello and blessings. Please respond. Thank you. UPRRP INGL3162
Thank you for this letter and saludos to Jovan, Brenda, Sonia, Elizabeth, Caro y la maestra/o. Gracias por su linda carta. Espero que todos estan bien, y espero al fin que se han recuperado del huracán por favor. My heart goes out to Puerto Rico. Que viva Boricua. ¡Abrazos fuertes a todos mis lectores en Puerto Rico! Sandra Cisneros
Dear Ms Cisneros,
My name is Carmen. I live in North Carolina. I'm a 10th grader
and I'm an English Learner student.
I really liked the story "Eleven" because even though I'm fifteen years old
sometimes I feel like a three year old child. For example, when I want to
talk or ask a question to a teacher I don't do it because I'm afraid that they
won't understand what I'm saying because of my English skills and that's
when I want to be older so that I could know what to say without being
afraid of talking to others.
I think I relate to this story because sometimes when I'm frustrated or I
don't know what to do anymore all I want to do is cry like a baby.
Oh, Carmen, me too. I am sixty-three, but sometimes still feel like I’m three. It never goes away that feeling no matter how old you are. Thank you for sharing this with me. I hope you realize that everyone feels this way, and this will make you feel less alone and realize, hey, I’m only human. Then be kind to the three year-old inside yourself. Forgive and be patient with you. You are still three underneath the you you are today. SC
Dear Ms. Cisneros
My name is Sohary Andino. I am a student at Ashley High School, in North Carolina. I am a 17 year old girl and I am an English learner.
I enjoyed reading yor story "Eleven" and I think it should be read by everybody. Mandy people might feel the same way like Rachel was feeling.
I have felt the same way. I have desired my mind could talk when I wanted to say something and this desire comes where I am, all over the places, wherever I go, especially in the high school where I am. As a English learner I wish I can be older to know everything to speak on behalf of all my Latino people, when we are struggeling with the language and people don't listen to us. Even worse is when teachers don't listen to us, when we are confused with the assigments or when our classmates are bullying us and then they act like the victim and the teacher yiells at us. There are times I whish I was one hundred and two.
Dear Sohary, All this you are suffering now is part of you camino sagrado. Right now it is painful for you, but one day you will understand what you were meant to learn and how this pain can be transformed to illuminate your path. Believe me, you will take this with you in work you have yet to do. It is meant to make you feel deeply, open your heart, and see with more than your eyes. Good luck on your path.