I have a new love: Cisneros

I have a new love, Sandra Cisneros. I did not expect it. I have only had one literary love my adult life, Margaret Atwood. I discovered her quite by accident. I was at Grand Central station in New York City, and I needed change for a bus to my college in Massachusetts. I went into Barnes and Noble bookstore and Margaret’s novel, Cat’s Eye, was the cheapest paperback book I could find, $8.95. It was 1988, and I have been addicted to her ever since. Since then I have bought all of her novels and short stories as they have come out. That doesn’t mean I haven’t loved other books and authors, Toni Morrison’s, The Bluest Eye and Beloved, Isabel Allende’s, Eva Luna, Gabriela Garcia Marquez’s, Leaf Storm. But there is something about Margaret’s prose that wraps around me, and its rhythm seems made for my eyes. I keep coming back to her and hold her closely and jealously. My least favorite works are when she gets dystopic, The Handmaiden’s Tale is not to one of my picks. I love when she waxes about the ordinariness of life, the dirt between the toes, the uneven rag rug. I can’t forget the “waterlogged” cashier she wrote about in one of her short stories.  The normality of life although heavy becomes beautiful in her hands.

My least favorite works are when she gets dystopic, The Handmaiden’s Tale is not to one of my picks. I love when she waxes about the ordinariness of life, the dirt between the toes, the uneven rag rug. I can’t forget the “waterlogged” cashier she wrote about in one of her short stories.  The normality of life although heavy becomes beautiful in her hands.

I “discovered” Sandra Cisneros while reading another of My Authors, Ruth Behar’s, Translated Woman.  I hang onto Behar’s work with my teeth and my fingernails. Her work shows me that what I want to do can be done. I have been a graduate student for three years and I am part of academia, a land called the academy. For most of my time, my professors have told me they don’t know what I am doing and have no idea how I can accomplish my goals. It doesn’t seem that complicated to me: I am researching and writing about my family. When they say – what are you doing? Why is this important to anyone? – I hang on to Behar and keep moving forward.

But I am digressing, Behar mentions Cisneros often in her book but I only took notice when she talks about lighting candles on the day of the dead.  Cisneros, I made a note to look into her books. I did not remember that I had written another note to buy, The House on Mango Street, also by Cisneros. But I hadn’t gotten around to it. I was attracted to, The House on Mango Street, simply because its name reminded me of the street where I grew up.

At the end of the semester, I went to my college library with my list of books and authors. I am lucky to have access to an amazing library at college. I brought home some Cisneros books home and added them to my reading pile. I started reading, Vintage Cisneros, a wonderful book of excerpts taken from her different works. I have mostly lost the will to read. As a student, I have been forced to read thousands of pages of mind-numbing texts that drone on endlessly. Vintage Cisneros, is divided into consumable bits that my addled and exhausted brain can handle. I did not expect to fall in love, I just did. I carried the book around with me reading little snatches here and there. Her words steady me.

As a graduate student, I am writing a thesis, a book-length work. Everyone involved agreed I should write a creative piece because prose is my strength, but because of my program, it would have to be intellectualized somehow. The professor that has taken the most interest in my work informed me I was a writer and was adamant that this was the best use of my talents. We agreed I was in the wrong program but I need to finish. I have been bruised and battered by my graduate school experience. For me, it has been a hostile environment, so the prospect of completing this major project with little support is beyond daunting. But I have my arsenal: Behar, Atwood, Allende, Morrison and now Cisneros.

This post took a turn I did not intend. I did not mean to bitch about my academic program and my isolation. I just wanted to write about two authors that I love, but the truth has a way of creeping out. I am at the end of one academic program and heading to another I am not sure if all graduate programs eat their students alive, I’ll find out. Meanwhile, I have Cisneros.

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