Texas Book Fest celebrates Sandra Cisneros

Sandra Cisneros reading at Central Presbyterian Church during Texas Book Festival. Photo by Nancy Flores
Sandra Cisneros reading at Central Presbyterian Church during Texas Book Festival. Photo by Nancy Flores

Author Sandra Cisneros took a look at the raised pulpit at Central Presbyterian Church during the Texas Book Festival on Saturday and asked the packed audience in the pews, “Should I read from up there?”

Cheers from the crowd erupted.

“As a woman, it’s empowering to be in the pulpit,” said the author of the highly acclaimed book, “The House on Mango Street,” who grew up Catholic.

Cisneros read a personal essay from a time after she moved away from Austin, when she was trying to pick up the pieces after she spent a difficult 1987 in the city.

“Everytime I’m in Austin, I feel so much sadness,” she says. It brings back memories of unemployment and looking to find her place in the world, she says.

Cisneros isn’t searching anymore. In fact, at 60 years old, she’s more sure of herself than ever. She’s living in Mexico now, a place that’s become her sanctuary and where she says “ideas are popping out of my head like popcorn.”

She doesn’t like to call her latest collection of autobiographical essays, “A House of My Own: Stories from My Life,” a memoir because she says that feels like someone who is the end of their life. “I still feel young,” she says.

Over the years, Cisneros says that many of her essays have been lost. Some of her work disappeared after many moves, and some of it burned. Making sure she had a book that housed the remaining essays was important to her. Preserving her work is not something she has to worry about anymore. Last month, Cisneros’ literary archive was acquired by the Wittliff Collections at Texas State University for $800,000.

Cisneros’ work is often taught in Chicana feminist classes, and the author recalled that when “The House on Mango Street” was published that she was bullied by some male, Chicano authors. “They thought I wasn’t raising the fist,” she says.

Cisneros also talked up the importance of perseverance. She says she started writing “The House on Mango Street” when she was 22, and finished it at 28. “When you feel like quitting is when you should hang in there.”

Author: Nancy Flores

Nancy Flores is a features writer who covers general assignments including Latino culture for the Austin American-Statesman and Austin360.

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