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Biography

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Photo by Ray Santisteban, San Antonio, Texas, 2007. 

Photo by Ray Santisteban, San Antonio, Texas, 2007. 

Sandra Cisneros is a poet, short story writer, novelist, and essayist. 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, national and international book awards, and most recently Chicago's Fifth Star Award, the PEN Center USA Literary Award and the National Medal of Arts presented to her by President Obama at the White House. 

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 that serve writers and a dual citizen of the United States and Mexico, Sandra Cisneros earns her living by her pen.

 


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 a collection of personal essay 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.

Woman Hollering Creek and Other Stories was awarded the PEN Center West Award for Best Fiction of 1991, 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 notable book of the year by numerous reviewers including The New York TimesLos Angeles TimesSan Francisco ChronicleChicago Tribune, and 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 more than twenty languages, including Spanish, Galician, French, German, Dutch, Italian, Norwegian, Japanese, Chinese, Turkish, and, most recently, into Greek, Persian, Thai, Bulgarian, and Serbo-Croatian. Each of my books has been translated into Spanish and is available in the US, 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, and Milwaukee.

Photo by Erasmo Guerra, San Miguel de Allende, 2013.

Photo by Erasmo Guerra, San Miguel de Allende, 2013.

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 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 Mivida and Osvaldo Amor, a Tejana mestiza dog named la Cacahuata, and three very tall palm trees.