You probably know that Sandra Cisneros wrote The House on Mango Street (and if you were born in the 90s, you probably read it in school), but did you know that she’s also a FEMINIST BADASS?! Here are 5 reasons to appreciate Sandra Cisneros anew for her contributions to feminism—and maybe reread The House on Mango Street or read one of her other books for the first time.
#1: She was the first Mexican-American woman to have her work published by a major house, and she used that fame to pave the way for the rest of us.
In 1984, the first edition of The House on Mango Street was published by small Texan publisher Arte Público Press. When Vintage Press, part of Random House, reissued it in 1989, Cisneros reached an audience broader than any Mexican-American woman before her. And she used her newly amplified voice to ask the publishing industry to listen to Latinx writers more often. A quote from a 1992 Seattle Times article about her “There are many Latino writers as talented as I am, but because we are published through small presses our books don’t count. We are still the illegal aliens of the literary world.”
#2: She started a writers’ group at her kitchen table in San Antonio that has gone on to support the careers of hundreds of writers, including lots of Latinas.
The Macondo Writers’ Workshop is going strong after 21 years and aims to cultivate community among writers from historically marginalized groups—women, people of color, and LGBTQ people. Reyna Grande, award-winning author of The Distance Between Us, is just one of the many acclaimed past attendees.
#3: She made the decision to prioritize her career over marriage and kids, and didn’t let anyone tell her it was “selfish.”
“I wanted to concentrate on creating a book, not a family… . I also have many books, and each one is my child.” From http://www.sandracisneros.com/letters/letter_018.php.
#4: Cisneros writes women who empower women. Her characters know who they are and aren’t afraid to break away from what society expects from them.
“My mother says when I get older my dusty hair will settle and my blouse will learn to stay clean, but I have decided not to grow up tame like the others who lay their necks on the threshold waiting for the ball and chain… . I have begun my own quiet war. Simple. Sure. I am one who leaves the table like a man, without putting back the chair or picking up the plate.” –Esperanza in The House on Mango Street
#5: And finally, she wrote these beautifully sassy, beautifully feminist words.
They say I’m a macha, hell on wheels,
viva-la-vulva, fire and brimstone,
but I like the compliment.
From “Loose Woman” in the collection Loose Woman, Knopf, 1994.