As the daughter of Mexican American parents with close family ties to Mexico, Sandra Cisneros is at home on both sides of the national and cultural borders. As the only daughter among six brothers, Cisneros is well aware of the patriarchal culture of Chicano society. Her life and writings illustrate the tensions of a woman’s life on the cultural and social borders between exclusion and inclusion, restriction and success.
Born in Chicago in 1954, Cisneros attended Catholic elementary and high schools, and graduated from Loyola University of Chicago in 1976. During her childhood, the family moved frequently from one rented apartment to another, and often visited family in Mexico. While studying at the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop, Cisneros discovered the uniqueness of her urban, Hispanic, female experience and voice. After completing her M.F.A. at Iowa, she worked with Latino youth in academic settings in Chicago until she moved to San Antonio, Texas, where she still makes her home. In the note on the author that appears in her two novels, a note that she herself almost certainly wrote, Cisneros is described as “nobody’s mother and nobody’s wife,” emphasizing her commitment to women’s asserting individual identities rather than defining themselves in relation to men. She has earned fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, one each in fiction and poetry, and she received a MacArthur Foundation “genius grant” in 1995. She occasionally works as a guest professor or writer-in-residence at universities throughout the country. In addition to writing poetry, fiction, and essays, Cisneros is committed to supporting local arts efforts and Hispanic cultural projects, particularly in the San Antonio area.
The life and work of Sandra Cisneros illustrate the borderland metaphor that Gloria Anzaldúa uses to characterize the experience of Hispanic women in