At age 66, writer Sandra Cisneros can boast not only as one of the leaders of Latino literature in the United States, but also having received prestigious awards, such as the PEN America Award, the PEN/Nabokov Award for International Literature and the National Medal of Arts.
Now, she is also the recipient of the Fuller Prize, granted by the Chicago Literary Hall of Fame (CLHOF), and will receive it on Saturday, March 13, in a virtual ceremony.
Author, critic and editor Donna Seaman, in charge of interviewing Cisneros during the event, highlighted to the Chicago Tribune the power of the Mexican-American writer’s fiction, poetry and essays, and added that she is “a writer with conscience and compassion, candid, funny, imaginative and generous, full of surprises and deeply attuned to the human experience.”
Sandra Cisneros, whose first novel, The House on Mango Street, has already become a classic of American literature with more than 6 million copies sold since its publication in 1984, joins a distinguished group of Fuller winners including Gene Wolfe, Harry Mark Petrakis, Haki Madhubuti, Rosellen Brown, Angela Jackson, Stuart Dybek, Sara Paretsky, and Sterling Plumpp.
In addition, Chicago poet Carlos Cumpian will be the master of ceremonies, and some local artists will have the opportunity to perform short tributes to the writer in addition to a Q&A for the audience.
But the tour doesn’t end there for Cisneros, as she will also be one of the guest writers at the San Antonio Book Festival 2021, which will be held virtually this April after an initial cancellation.
From Mexico to Chicago
The daughter of a Mexican family living in Chicago and the only female of seven kids, Cisneros always avidly sought out Latino references to draw inspiration from as she dreamed of becoming a writer.
The House on Mango Street is a reflection of those childhood dreams as well as a reflection on migration, racism, cultural assimilation and misogyny.
It’s something that Sandra Cisneros managed to develop brilliantly through Esperanza, the Latina teenager through whom she explored the complexities of identity and portrayed her family, her stifling neighborhood, and her entry into puberty, which was marked by sexual abuse.
All are themes that remain as in vogue today as they were 40 years ago.
“That novel opened a window into Chicago’s Mexican-American culture and, more broadly, the plight of immigrants in our nation,” said Randy Albers, professor and chair emeritus of fiction at Columbia College, and chairman of the CLHOF board. “In her long career, Cisneros has written numerous poems, novels, short stories and essays that have made her a leading voice for the underprivileged and underrepresented. She is an activist, feminist, teacher and mentor, someone to admire and emulate, but also to learn from at a time when the culture wars have become endemic and division is rampant.”
The Chicago Literary Hall of Fame was founded in 2008 by Don Evans, writer of the novel Good Money After Bad, editor of the anthology Cubbie Blues: 100 Years of Waiting Till Next Year and author of the short story collection An Off-White Christmas.