Sandra Cisneros On Reading Books To Become A Better Writer

shameless woman“It is Sandra Cisneros’ first collection of poetry in 28 years. That may be because the bestselling author is busy publishing novels, short story collections, and essays. She won prestigious awards and started setting up foundations to sponsor young writers. The Chicago native moved to San Miguel de Allende in Mexico, a country her ancestors.

books: What did you bring to read on your book tour this fall?

Cisneros: I buy books on the go. In fact, I’m shipping a box again because I have so much to carry. I bought the Natalie Diaz set”Postcolonial love poem“Which I’m reading now. I love her work. I bought Ann Patchett’s essay collection.”These precious days“Which Nhat Hanh”How do we live when a loved one dies. “Then I bought today”Part two reportGwendolyn Brooks’ Diary. I have a copy but I buy extras when I see her. She is my literary godmother. I have friends who are the sons of my literary godfather. I love the extras in case they don’t have one.

books: Is her diary hard to find?

Cisneros: My favorite work for her,”Maud Martha“Hard to find. This is a little novel made of vignettes, which I wish I had known about when I was writing my first book,”The house on Mango Street. “I didn’t know you could write a novel like this.

books: At what age did you discover Brooks?

Cisneros: I think I discovered it in high school in the anthology. You can buy high school books at the Paperback Book Club. I bought her a lot of books and found out that she was writing about Chicago.

booksWhich authors really captured your hometown?

Cisneros: I love Theodore Dreiser songSister Carrie. Isn’t that a delicious book? All by Carl Sandberg. I love Buttons Terkel. He is a literary godfather to me. I like to think of them all as my literary predecessors in Chicago. They are the ones who inspired me to do what I do.

books: How would you describe yourself as a reader?

Cisneros: I do not read any book. I have to read a book that can make me a better writer. I do not have a lot of time. I am 67 years old. I can’t waste my time on fools.

books: What kind of reader did you like when you were a kid?

Cisneros: If you had asked me that at 11, I would have said books about antiquity. What I meant were books written in another century or those translated that had a magical sound, which I now realize might have been a poor translation. I loved books written in British English, such as “Alice in WonderlandOr translations of the works of Hans Christian Andersen, which sounds strange. I loved books that took me from my boring everyday life in Chicago to dream time. But then I began to speak like people from ancient times, using words like ‘can’t.’ Who uses no?

booksDid moving to San Miguel change your reading in some way?

Cisneros: It made me want to read books in Spanish even if I had to have the English version right next to it. Wow, this is amazing. When you read the original, that’s the difference between Mexican hot chocolate and Nestlé’s Quik chocolate. I’ve read Mexican novels, like Fernanda Melchor’s.”hurricane seasonand Elena Garrow.Memories of things to comeFrom that way.

booksIs there a book that you give him a lot as a gift?

Cisneros: I give the word Thich Nhat HanhPeaceA book that changed my life. A friend gave it to me. I wondered why she did because it looked like a religious book. I put it on the shelf. Later when I had to give a lecture for International Women’s Day, I was looking for inspiration and pulled out this book. It taught me a different way to be an activist and to do it in a peaceful way.

booksWhat other book have you put off reading?

Cisneros: I think books are like prescriptions for what we suffer from, and sometimes when people give us a book we don’t suffer from these ailments. It may not serve us then. But later, it will come in time.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

Follow us on Facebook or Twitter @GlobeBiblio. Amy Sutherland is the author of “Save BennyIt can be accessed at

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