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Sandra Cisneros is an activist poet, short story writer, novelist, essayist and artist. Writing for over 50 years, her work explores the lives of the working-class. Her numerous awards include NEA fellowships in both poetry and prose, the Texas Medal of the Arts, a MacArthur Fellowship, several honorary degrees, and both national and international book awards. Most recently, she received the Ford Foundation's Art of Change Fellowship, Chicago's Fifth Star Award, the PEN Center USA Literary Award, the Arthur R. Velasquez Award from the National Museum of Mexican Art in Chicago and Loyola University's Arts & Science Damen Award, presented to Loyola alumni in recognition of their leadership in industry, the community, and service to others. She received the 2015 National Medal of Arts presented to her by President Obama at the White House, she received the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute's 2017 CHCI Chair's Award in Washington, D.C., and The Texas Institute of Letters's Lifetime Achievement Award 2018.
Her classic coming-of-age novel, The House on Mango Street has sold over six million copies, has been translated into more than twenty languages, and is required reading in elementary, high school, and university curricula across the U.S.
Founder of awards and foundations, she is the mother of many writers and wife to her pen. A dual citizen of Mexico and the Unites States, she currently makes her home in the state of Guanajuato, home of her ancestors, where she says she lives as "una naranja completa."
Top photo by Diana Solis, Chicago, 1982.
About my life and work
I was born in Chicago in 1954, the third child and only daughter in a family of seven children. I studied at Loyola University of Chicago (B.A. English, 1976) and the University of Iowa (M.F.A. Creative Writing, 1978).
I've worked as a teacher and counselor to high-school dropouts, as an artist-in-the-schools where I taught creative writing at every level except first grade and pre-school, a college recruiter, an arts administrator, and as a visiting writer at a number of universities including the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. And, I was a Writer-in-Residence at Our Lady of the Lake University in San Antonio.
My books include a chapbook of poetry, Bad Boys (Mango Press, 1980); two full-length poetry books, My Wicked Wicked Ways (Third Woman Press, 1987; Random House, 1992) and Loose Woman (Alfred A. Knopf, 1994); a collection of stories, Woman Hollering Creek and Other Stories (Random House, 1991); a children's book, Hairs/Pelitos (Alfred A. Knopf, 1994); the novels The House on Mango Street (Vintage, 1991) and Caramelo (Knopf, 2002), and the picture book Have You Seen Marie? (Knopf 2012). My latest book is a collection of personal essays, A House of My Own: Stories from My Life (Alfred A. Knopf, 2015).
The House on Mango Street, first published in 1984, won the Before Columbus Foundation's American Book Award in 1985 and is required reading in middle schools, high schools, and universities across the country. It has sold over six million copies since its initial publication and is still selling strongly. 2009 marked the 25th anniversary of the publication of The House on Mango Street in the United States and I traveled to twenty cities to celebrate with readers.
Woman Hollering Creek and Other Stories was awarded the PEN Center West Award for Best Fiction of l99l, the Quality Paperback Book Club New Voices Award, the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, the Lannan Foundation Literary Award, and was selected as a noteworthy book of the year by The New York Times and The American Library Journal, and nominated Best Book of Fiction for l99l by The Los Angeles Times.
Loose Woman won the Mountains & Plains Booksellers' Award.
Caramelo was selected as a notable book of the year by several journals including The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Chicago Tribune, and the Seattle Times. In 2005 Caramelo was awarded the Premio Napoli and was short listed for the Dublin International IMPAC Award. It was also nominated for the Orange Prize in England.
Vintage Cisneros, published in 2004, is a compilation of selections from my works.
Have You Seen Marie?, a picture book for grown-ups with illustrations by Ester Hernández, was published by Knopf in 2012. The book is now available in eBook and paperback editions.
A House of My Own: Stories From My Life was released in 2015. It is now available in paperback. The collection of essays won the 2016 PEN Center USA Literary Award for creative nonfiction.
My books have been translated into over twenty languages, including Spanish, Galician, French, German, Dutch, Italian, Norwegian, Japanese, Chinese, Turkish, and, most recently, into Egyptian, Greek, Iranian, Thai, and Serbo-Croatian. Each of my books has been translated into Spanish and is available in the U.S., and they're available as audio books read by me.
Caramelo and The House on Mango Street have been selected for many One-City/One- Read projects in numerous communities including Los Angeles, Miami, Fort Worth, El Paso, Milwaukee, St. Louis, Santa Ana, and Kansas City with several more in the works.
In 1995, I was awarded the MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, and I subsequently helped organize the Latino MacArthur Fellows — Los MacArturos — a caucus of Latino awardees united in community service.
I've received many other honors, including the Texas Institute of Letters Dobie-Paisano Fellowship, l984; and an Illinois Artists Fellowship, l984; the Chicano Short Story Award from the University of Arizona, l986; the Roberta Holloway Lectureship at the University of California, Berkeley, l988; two National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellowships in poetry and prose, 1982, 1988; an honorary Doctor of Letters from the State University of New York at Purchase, l993; an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from Loyola University, Chicago, 2002; and honorary degrees from DePaul University in 2014 and from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2016; the Texas Medal of the Arts, 2003; the Fifth Star Award presented by the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, 2015; Tia Chucha’s Lifetime Achievement Award; the Fairfax Prize in 2016. I received the Ford Foundation's Art of Change Fellowship in 2018. Most recently I was recognized as part of The Frederick Douglas 200.
I founded both the Macondo Foundation, an association of socially engaged writers, and the Alfredo Cisneros Del Moral Foundation, a grant-giving institution that served Texas writers for fifteen years.
Currently, I live with two San Miguelense chihuahuas, Luz de Mi Vida and Osvaldo Amor, a Tejana mestiza dog named la Cacahuata, a xolo-chihuahua named Nahui Ollin, and three very tall palm trees.