Reading Group Center

The Relatable Wisdom of Sandra Cisneros

In her latest book, A House of My Own, Sandra Cisneros offers readers an intimate album of her life and career consisting of essays and images spanning three decades. Described as “dazzling” by the Los Angeles Times, this collection is a one-of-a-kind memoir.

In one essay entitled “I Can Live Sola and I Love to Work,” Cisneros describes her experience living alone for the very first time:

The twenties are a difficult decade for any woman, but I’d felt they were especially so for me. I was living alone; not unusual for a white woman, but a rare thing for a Mexican American daughter who had left her father’s house with neither husband nor child. Rather, I’d fled the racket of my parents’ home with poetry as my excuse. Solitude, I claimed, was the necessity of every artist.

My eldest brother hissed, “We know why you really want to be alone.” Fueled by my brother, Father suspected the worst—I had a sexuality. Like all Mexican fathers, Father wanted me to remain neuter until a man came to ask him for my hand, and if no one came to ask, neuter I was to remain, destined until death to the old maid’s task of “dressing saints.” I can joke about all this now, but back then it was terrible to receive my father and elder brother’s condemnation. I was no better than la Malinche, Hernán Cortés’s Mexican mistress, who aided the Spaniards in conquering Mexico. I had betrayed my culture, they said, and I was young enough to half-believe them.

Father blamed my college education for ruining me. After all, I was behaving just like those white women with loose morals, loose drawers, and loose ideas—like living alone without the support and protection of la familia. ¿Vas a vivir sola? (p. 134-135)

Cisneros recently participated in NPR’s “Next Chapter” series, in which authors provide advice for young people about the crucial milestone of leaving home. In her interview, Cisneros describes the struggles of living alone for the first time in more detail and the coping mechanisms that helped her through it.

Click on the player below to listen to the interview: