Sandra Cisneros is probably one of the most remarkable figures in American literature, having received many awards including one that was awarded by the famed former President Obama. Her writing style incorporates a mix of different syntaxes and vocabulary that’s mostly English with subtle hints of Spanish and this might make you wonder where she grew up.
Sandra Cisneros grew up in Chicago, Illinois. As the only daughter in a predominantly male family, Cisneros often felt like the odd one out after her sister died during childbirth.
If you’re interested in learning more about the type of childhood Cisneros had and how she got into writing then this article’s for you.
Chicago: Rootlessness and Love
Born on December 20, 1954 to Alfredo Cisneros Del Moral and Elvira Cordero Anguian, Sandra was raised in Chicago—a place signifying rootlessness and the love that forged her family’s history. Sandra’s childhood was far from what you’d consider to be ‘normal’.
Before Sandra’s birth, her mom and dad met each other while Alfredo was trying to find somewhere to settle in America after fleeing Mexico to avoid the wrath of his father for not graduating from college.
Alfredo and his brother had been traveling across America to find their home and a place they belonged. One day, they stopped in Chicago to get a taste for what it was like there. It was on this day that Alfredo crossed paths with Elvira.
A day trip to Chicago turned into months and then years, until Alfredo decided he wanted to settle there with Elvira. A short while later, Alfredo and Elvira got married and settled in a neighborhood in Chicago that was pretty run-down and was in one of the poorest areas.
The couple had two children before the birth of Sandra. A year after Sandra was born, her mother lost a child during childbirth—this was the only girl she’d ever give birth to out of seven.
Sandra’s childhood was spent traveling back and forth between Chicago and Mexico City so Alfredo could see his mother. In this sense, her childhood was quite unsettled.
In Wolfgang Binder’s book Partial Interviews: Interviews with Twenty Chicano Poets, Sandra recalls that her father was his mother’s favorite child and she was the reason why the family spent their time in between cities.
She describes her grandmother as ‘over-sentimental’, ‘hysterical’ and ‘spoiled’. “Her best baby was my father whom she held tight to…We returned like the tides, back and forth to Mexico City.”
As she went through her childhood, Sandra often felt lonely and invisible as her father would often, in error, tell people he had seven sons and misjudge that he, in fact, had six sons and a daughter which is something that she felt she had to remind him of.
The Beginnings of Her Writing Career
It was the loneliness and the unsettled element to her childhood motivated Sandra to take up writing for creative purposes, but it wasn’t until she was twenty that she started taking writing seriously after her first writing class in 1974.
A decade on in 1984, she gained international attention with her first fictional book The House on Mango Street. This book was one that reflected her memories of her childhood and being a girl.
In her writing, Sandra often reflects back on her own childhood, but what influences her writing?
In a 2009 interview, Sandra revealed that she often has to create her own stories about her family because they have become increasingly private after she became a writer.
One of her influences is the power of spoken language. “I am constantly influenced by what is spoken and told to me. It doesn’t always come from family…I have to invent so much when it comes to my family’s stories.”
Sandra gradually became a prominent author, with her work even appearing and being read in American schools by students.