Sandra Cisneros was born in Chicago in 1954 to Mexican parents. The only daughter of seven children, Cisneros began writing poetry at 10 years old. During her high school years, she was known amongst her colleagues as an active writer and poet. Following her graduation, she attended Loyola University of Chicago and graduated in 1976 with a B.A. in English. She completed graduate studies at the University of Iowa in 1978 with an M.F.A. in Creative Writing.
Cisneros has also worked as an educator. Upon her graduation from the University of Iowa, she moved back to Chicago to teach and counsel students at the Latino Youth Alternative High School. She has also worked as a visiting writer and arts administrator at universities including Loyola University of Chicago, the University of California–Berkeley, and the University of Michigan–Ann Arbor.
Her first book entitled Bad Boys was published in 1980 and is a short collection of poems told through the lens of various Latinx characters. The poems incorporate themes of domestic struggles and abuse. Four years later, her most famous novel called The House on Mango Street was published. The fiction novel won the American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation in 1985 and has since sold over six million copies worldwide. Additionally, Cisneros is actively collaborating with composer Derek Bermel in the creation of The House on Mango Street, The Opera, which has already held previews at Yale University and the Chautauqua Institution. Her writing is inspired greatly by her upbringing in an economically-disadvantaged, culturally-hybridized household with immigrant parents. Much of her work is written in the Spanish language as much as English and often incorporates her feminist ideals. Her novels, poems, and short stories have gathered acclaim from media institutions such as The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Chicago Tribune, and the Seattle Times.
Cisneros has received numerous prestigious fellowships and awards including the National Medal of Arts by President Barack Obama in 2016. She was awarded the MacArthur Foundation Fellowship in 1995, where she helped organize the Los MacArturos, a collective of Latino MacArthur Fellows dedicated to community service. She has received two fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1981 and 1988. Other awards and honors include: the Texas Institute of Letters Dobie-Paisano Fellowship (1984), the Illinois Artists Fellowship (1984), the Roberta Holloway Lectureship at the University of California, Berkeley (1988), the Texas Medal of the Arts (2003), the Fifth Star Award presented by the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs (2015), the Tia Chucha’s Lifetime Achievement Award (2016), the Fairfax Prize (2016), and the Ford Foundation’s Art of Change Fellowship (2018). She has been awarded honorary degrees from institutions such as The State University of New York at Purchase, DePaul University, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Loyola University, Chicago. Most recently, Cisneros was named part of the Frederick Douglass 200.
In 1998, Cisneros founded the Macondo Foundation, which facilitates social justice through the work of talented writers like herself. In 1999, she founded the Alfredo Cisneros del Moral Foundation in memory of her father. The foundation has given over $75,000 to Texas-based writers since 2007.
Currently, Sandra Cisneros lives in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico and remains active as a writer and poet.
This profile was created in 2022 as part of the Song of America Fellowship Program, a project of the Classic Song Research Initiative between the Hampsong Foundation and the University of Michigan, School of Music, Theatre, and Dance.
-Alexander, Kerri Lee. 2022. “Sandra Cisneros”. National Women’s History Museum. https://www.womenshistory.org/education-resources/biographies/sandra-cisneros.
-“Biography — Sandra Cisneros”. 2022. Sandra Cisneros. https://www.sandracisneros.com/mylifeandwork.
-“The Frederick Douglass 200: The People Who Embody The Abolitionist’s Spirit And Work”. 2022. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/ng-interactive/2018/jul/05/the-frederick-douglass-200.
Martita, te recuerdo
Martita, te recuerdo is a novel by Sandra Cisneros. The book was published in 2021 in both Spanish and English languages.
Puro Amor is a short story written and illustrated by Sandra Cisneros. The book was published in 2018 and is written in English and Spanish languages.
A House of My Own: Stories from My Life
A House of My Own is a collection of autobiographical stories by Sandra Cisneros. The book draws from her childhood in Chicago and her career as a Mexican-American author which led her to settle in Mexico as an adult. The book was published in 2015.
Have You Seen Marie?
Have You Seen Marie? is a novel by Sandra Cisneros. The book was published in 2012 in both English and Spanish languages.
Bravo, Bruno! is a short story written in Italian by Sandra Cisneros. The book was published in Italy in 2011.
Caramelo is a novel by Sandra Cisneros. The book tells the story of a Mexican-American family, similar to Cisneros's own upbringing. The book was published in 2002 and garnered critical acclaim from the LA Times, USA Today, and others.
Hairs / Pelitos
Hairs (EN) is a bilingual picture book by Sandra Cisneros. The book was published in 1994 and is illustrated by Terry Ybanez.
Loose Woman is a collection of poetry by Sandra Cisneros. The book was praised by the Boston Globe as "poignant, sexy... lyrical, passionate... hot as a chili pepper." The collection was published in 1994.
Woman Hollering Creek
Woman Hollering Creek is a collection of stories by Sandra Cisneros. The book remains one of Cisneros's most famous works and was published in 1991.
My Wicked Wicked Ways
My Wicked Wicked Ways is a collection of poetry by Sandra Cisneros. The book was published in 1987.
The House on Mango Street
The House on Mango Street is a novel by Sandra Cisneros and is told through a series of vignettes. It remains one of Cisneros's most famous works. The book was published in 1984 and received praise from institutions such as the New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, and Miami Herald.
Bad Boys is a novel by Sandra Cisneros and was her first publication. The book was published in 1980.