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Author Sandra Cisneros explains how writing is therapy

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SAndra Cisneros never thought that she would one day own a house. Growing up with six brothers and both of their parents in an immigrant community in Chicago, she always dreamed of a quiet place where she could be alone, have her hair messy and not have to make her bed.

She had dreamed of a land of solitude, where she could put her thoughts on paper and not have to neatly fold her laundry every time. A place where she could be creative, a place where she wasn’t afraid. But I never thought it would be a house.

As a writer, she lived from paycheck to paycheck in her mid-thirties before her book The House on Mango Street became an international bestseller. It was then that her agent and accountant broke the news to her: You can now afford to buy a house.

“It was beyond my dreams, you know? I was scared, and every time I would pay off the house for a year, I would say I hope I can do it again [next year]’ said Cisneros.

This house was in San Antonio, Texas, and she ended up paying for it in full. It was the house where she wrote her short story book Woman Hollering Creek and Other Stories, her memoir A House of My Own, and many other works.

“You don’t need a husband, but you do need an agent, an accountant, and a financial planner,” she said, laughing.

Cisneros now lives in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, in a different house. She has just completed a series of press tours for her latest novel, Martita, I Remember You/Martita, te recuerdo, and is in the process of adapting House on Mango Street into an opera with composer Derek Bermel. In May, she will speak at the Santa Fe Literary Festival alongside one of her lifelong friends and mentor, Joy Harjo. She also still leads her writing workshops and continues to mentor authors and write her own stuff. Other acclaimed writers at the festival include Margaret Atwood, John Grisham, Asma Khan and Jonn Krakauer, all of whom contribute to the program’s considerable depth and breadth.

So to say that Cisneros is a sought-after woman is an understatement.

However, through our conversation, she seems calm and welcoming. As we speak, she has her dog, Nahui, filing her nails as she talks to me from her unkempt bed.

“My mom used to say, ‘Look at you, you didn’t make the bed,'” Cisneros says with a smile. “My mother made the bed every day, but she didn’t write — if you write, you don’t have to make the bed, I say that.”

Talking to Cisneros feels like talking to your favorite Tía. She offers advice on maintaining a youthful face (“Writing and Facials”), writing (“Write What No One Writes”), and her three golden rules for young women: earn your own money, appreciate loneliness, and control your fertility.

Sandra Cisneros and Nahui, her pet.

(Sandra Cisneros, Instagram.)

To the latter she says: “I have a choice in this life. I’ll either be alone and raise a child or I’ll raise books, but I can’t have both.”

There’s something about her that feels disrespectful because in many ways the way she’s lived her life goes against what’s often expected of a Latina. In Latin American culture, there are always certain expectations of women: you should know how to clean, you should know how to cook, and you should have a husband.

But from a young age, Cineros had decided that she didn’t need to learn to cook, she only wanted to clean when she felt like it, and she didn’t want a husband either. Instead, she chose to study and become a writer, a decision strongly encouraged by her mother, who pushed her to be independent and earn her own money.

“My mother was very limited by opportunities and the generation she was born in,” Cisneros said. “I think my mother’s life taught me what I didn’t want to be and also gave me the strength to be who I am. I didn’t want to have seven kids without birth control, you know, eight live births and a few miscarriages.”

During Cisneros’s mother Elvira, she was an art lover, always taking her family to museums and getting all her children library cards before they could even read. But she was also frustrated with her life and the fact that she could never become an artist. In death, Cisneros says she is much happier with her time on earth.

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“It’s nice to know that we can die dejected, but still evolve after we’re dead. So I am grateful to my mother, especially now in spirit. She has been very supportive and visits me and dreams.”

Cisneros is deeply spiritual and she believes that her loved ones are still with her even when they are not physical. But what really got her through her most desperate times is her writing.

“Some people go to therapy, I write,” she says. In fact, that was the main reason she wanted so badly to own a house so she could write, so she could turn off the noise and explore her feelings through the pen. Anything that stops Cisneros from writing is almost physically painful.

But for the past decade, her life has been filled with meetings, workshops, speeches, manuscripts, advice, interviews, and noise. The woman who values ​​solitude more than most has been placed in a position of endless social parade. She calls it “the messenger of everything.”

“I felt like I had to represent,” she said. “And I think that’s what prompted me to do a lot of things that took me away from my desk; the foundations, the big city meetings of the writing workshops. It’s just, you know, I had to do everything. It was exhausting.”

Certain things are expected after you become a well-known writer in your community, she says. But is it particularly difficult because she’s a writer of color?

“I mean, I don’t think writers like John Updike needed to be ambassadors for all white men,” Cisneros cheekily points out.

Nonetheless, her commitment to future generations in writing is outstanding. She still leads workshops, she still reads manuscripts, and she still writes blurbs for aspiring poets. So when it comes time to read for her own pleasure, she doesn’t have time to read any books that don’t serve her.

“You know, my Uber driver could be here any minute. Say ‘time to go,'” she says, referring to her own mortality. “So I just want to read like Latino women and especially read books by younger Latina authors. I want to read all the Latin American writers that I didn’t get for reading the men.”

She pulls out the book she is reading (Wild tongues cannot be tamed) and examines the author page. They’re all women writing about their experiences in the Latino diaspora, and she’s determined to include their words. She wants to experience them.

“I’m so glad because there’s like 15 authors, and [I only know] two of them,” she says as she goes through the names. “Any time I pick up an anthology that I know two of and don’t know the rest of, that’s a good sign because it means they can be the ambassadors. And I can be my ambassador.”

The first Santa Fe Literary Festival will take place on May 20-23, 2022. The four-day event is set to explore issues at a time of extraordinary change — in politics, race, immigration, the environment and more. The Independent, as the event’s international media partner, will cover each day of the festival and provide exclusive interviews with some of the headline writers ahead of time. You can find more information about the festival on our Section of the Santa Fe Literary Festival or visit the Festival website. To learn more about purchasing tickets Click here.

https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/sandra-cisneros-books-santa-fe-festival-b2038147.html Author Sandra Cisneros explains how writing is therapy

JOE HERNANDEZ

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