International Women's Day

Sandra Cisneros: A House of Her Own

todayMarch 7, 2017 35

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By Maria Martinez
Blog Content Contributor

As we are celebrating the upcoming Women’s Day, we should honor and appreciate the women who have set names for themselves, who were not scared to pursue their dreams and who have inspired a lot of other women to do the same for themselves. 

Internationally acclaimed Latina American novelist, Sandra Cisneros, is the subject of a major new exhibition in the Wittliff Collections at Texas State University.  Aside from being a teacher and counselor to high school dropouts, teaching creative writing to people of all ages, fostered the careers of many aspiring and emerging writers through the two organizations she founded; She was a huge impact for the Latino literary boom in the United States.

Even though she is part of two of the largest minority groups in this country, she has demonstrated that women have no boundaries when it comes to success. 

Sandra Cisneros’ popular customized license plate sits on display at The Wittliff Collections. Photo by Maria Martinez.

The exhibition is called A House of Her Own, which is pretty accurate, since as soon as you walk in you feel as if you are entering your friend’s living room. The exhibition defines her perfectly; It’s personal, colorful and lively. Some of the things that we can found at the exhibition are manuscripts for all of her major works, her correspondence, photographs, videos, original drawings, awards, publicity materials, diaries, journals, her Canon portable typewriter and my favorite one, a customized license plate that says “Ay tu” which is a common saying in the Mexican culture.

All of the showcases at “her house” had some thoughts handwritten by Cisneros. I stopped on all of them to read them because I thought it was really sweet that she took the time to write on them. There was one thought she wrote, which I fell in love with:

“My childhood memories of Mexico brought me to Texas. And Texas brought me back to Mexico. I started traveling across the border more often. I felt both at home and a stranger in both lands. I had to invent a homeland where a woman like me would feel she belonged.”

I couldn’t stop reading it. I felt really connected to her because we both grew with the Mexican and American culture deeply influencing our lives. This feeling she talks about, being at home and and a stranger in both lands, is how I feel most of the time… but I have never seen it in words. I feel that having the opportunity of creating our own homeland, is having the best of both worlds in one place. And with Cisneros unique work, people from all backgrounds can experience what is that we feel; what it is like living as a Mexican-American.

It makes me really proud and encouraged to think that a girl like me, has accomplished so much in this country. To think that she was one of the first Latina writers to be published by a major press, gives me the hope that one day I will accomplish something great too.

Last year, Cisneros was awarded with a National Medal of Arts at the White House. “For enriching the American narrative,” Former President Obama said. “Through her novels, short stories, and poetry, she explores issues of race, class, and gender through the lives of ordinary people straddling multiple cultures. As an educator, she has deepened our understanding of American identity.” I couldn’t agree more. 

One of her most popular works is The House on Mango Street. It has sold more than six million copies, has been translated into over twenty languages, and is a required reading in elementary, high school, and university courses across the U.S. In fact, both me and my sister had to read it for an English class in high school. In the exhibition we can see the original artwork used for the first edition of this book.

The House on Mango Street (1984) has been translated into over twenty languages and is apart of various schools’ curriculum. Photo by Maria Martinez.

This exhibition is going to be open until July 1st. So you still have time to visit Cisneros’s house. The Wittliff Collections are open daily and admission is free and open to the public. One of Wittliff’s missions is focusing on major authors and artists who have interpreted life in the Southwest and Mexico to preserve and celebrate the literary and photographic arts of Texas, the Southwest, and Mexico, so Cisneros’s work is perfect for this place. They are located on the top floor of Texas State’s Alkek Library (7th. Floor).

Featured image by Maria Martinez.

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