Out loud in Cortez
Cortez Public Library to host Sandra Cisneros

Award-winning Chicana Sandra Cisneros will appear in Cortez next Thursday to read from and sign her books.

by Karin L. Becker

Sometimes she writes fiction. Sometimes it’s poetry or children’s books. But always she writes of the female Mexican experience. Sandra Cisneros is the voice of Chicana literature, and she is coming to the Four Corners. “The Poetry Corner Presents” will host a reading and book signing with the world-renowned poet, teacher and activist at the Cortez Public Library on Thurs., May 12, at 7 p.m.

Born in Chicago in l954, Cisneros knows what it is to be loud. The third of seven children, she is the only daughter. A house full of boys necessitates attitude, precisely what we see in her female protagonists. Whether it be fiction or poetry, the same feisty resilience colors her writing where street-smart, fearlessly liberated personas rave, sometimes haphazardly, always with abandon, about the real things in life – love, death, blood, sex. Through imagery, metaphor, rhythm, sounds and scents, she describes her experiences of always straddling two countries, but not belonging to either.

Her most well known book, The House on Mango Street, features a young girl growing up in the Latino section of Chicago. Told in a series of vignettes, this short book is anything but juvenile.

Acclaimed by critics, beloved by children, their parents and grandparents, taught everywhere from inner-city grade schools to universities across the country, and translated all over the world, it has entered the canon of coming-of-age classics. Since its publication in 1984, this book has not left the limelight. Upon publication, it won the Before Columbus Foundation’s American Book Award and then went on to become required reading in middle schools, high schools and universities across the country. More recently, in 2009, it was chosen by Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley to be the 16th selection for Chicago’s citywide book club, One Book, One Chicago.

But some of her lesser known works incorporate the same insights of what it is to be a female and what it means to be a Chicana. Woman Hollering Creek is a collection of stories whose characters give voice to the vibrant and varied life on both sides of the Mexican border.

Cisneros’ language is noted for its eloquence, its visual appeal, its unpredictability. Although her wordsmithing is incorporated into her longer works, like her book of fiction, Caramello, a rich, romantic saga spanning four generations of a Mexican-American family, it is most stunning in her books of poetry. My Wicked Ways, Loose Woman and Bad Boys are books that showcase her finesse of language and her affinity for spirited sentiments.

As president and founder of the Macondo Foundation, an association of socially engaged writers, Cisneros incorporates the importance of community into her books. Her experience as a counselor to high-school dropouts, creative writing teacher at every level except first grade and pre-school, college recruiter, arts administrator and visiting writer at a number of universities gives her first hand familiarity to shape her characters with depth and bravado.

Cisneros will be the culminating act of “The Poetry Corner Presents” program, which has run the last three and a half years. “We are going out with a bang,” said Kathy Berg, facilitator of the event. When asked how they were able to attract such an esteemed author, Berg replied, “I like a challenge of getting the not gettable.”

Library Director Joanie Howland said they looked her up on the internet and contacted her agent. “It was just that easy.” What hasn’t been easy is funding the program. This year’s “The Poetry Corner Presents” was the most expensive and most time-consuming to date. With an operational budget of $10,000, the program has been deemed too expensive to continue. “It’s too much money for too little attendance,” Howland said. “It’s not worth it.” Instead, the library will

However, Berg is still hoping to pack the house for the Cisneros reading, and fans can look forward to several new projects she is working on, including a collection of fiction titled Infinito; a children’s book, Bravo, Bruno; and a book about writing titled Writing in My Pajamas. •



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