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Sandra Cisneros at the Texas Book Festival

2015-11-24

If I wanted, I could write an entire blog post on Sandra Cisernos’ voice. For a 60 year-old woman who has experienced so much (I mean, she has a memoir out–you only write a memoir if you’ve lived through a few things), I assumed she would have this antique, wisdom-coated, curandera-type voice. She absolutely does not. Sitting at Central Presbyterian in Austin, listening to her speak and read as part of the Texas Book Festival, I discovered that Cisneros’ voice is filled with the same sing-song innocence as the voice in “My Lucy Friend That Smells Like Corn.” Her voice is not my grandma spouting life advice from a far-off vantage point; rather, it is a spunky youth telling me that it is okay to still have questions and it is okay to have a thin skin sometimes.

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Before she began reading from her new memoir A House of My Own, she addressed the audience, saying how proud she was to be reading at such a beautiful church, humorously adding how she never imagined that she, as a woman, would be invited to stand at the pulpit. Her outfit had colorful details, with pink and orange embroidery and puff balls on the blouse, and colored beads on her wrist and neck with a yellow tassel at the end. Cisneros chose a story from her collection that described her star-struck experience of meeting Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano, a moment every one in the audience and myself could relate to immediately. Hearing her recall her shyness, her embarrassment, her insecurity, and all the adoring thoughts running through her head as she waited to meet her idol, I felt relieved that she would understand my fan-girl complex later at the signing tent.

Cisneros has been writing for decades. She is arguably the most well-known Latina writer out there. Hearing her speak and read from her memoir, I realized how many different obstacles she has overcome to reach success. Even with this enormous amount of achievement, however, Cisneros makes a point to share her fears, her feelings of insecurity, and the moments where she has felt voiceless. She talked about her time in Iowa, where she says she literally didn’t speak for a year. She talked about the desperation she felt at the thought of asking her parents for money and knowing she couldn’t possibly make that phone call. She talked about how small she felt, waiting in line to meet Galeano–and I listened in wonder, thinking, “How could Sandra Cisneros ever feel small?

While Cisneros did indeed share bits of wisdom from what she has learned throughout the past few decades, what really came through was the fact that, even after achieving so much at her age and stage of career, Cisneros still doesn’t know everything. She can still feel insecure. She can still doubt herself. She can still be the nervous fan-girl waiting in line for idol. Although I expected to walk into Central Presbyterian and be the star-struck student waiting to receive sage advice from the master, instead I found a kindred spirit in a woman who doesn’t have all the answers either, and is ok with telling me that. It is this quality, I believe, that lends the youthful lilt to the voice that I couldn’t get out of my head as I took the Metrorapid back home. The voice that is not only “Loose Woman,” but also my “Lucy Friend.”

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About Lexi Pérez

Lexi PérezI'm a second year doctoral student in the Department of English studying Chicana/o and Latina/o literatures. In my free time, I enjoy scoping out Austin panaderías, google image-ing Prince Royce, and singing Como la Flor on the daily.

Lexi Pérez