Acclaimed Writer Sandra Cisneros on New Poetry, Chicago Roots

Sandra Cisneros, the award-winning poet who grew up in Chicago, has released a new book of poems. 

At 67 years old, Cisneros has had a fruitful career. She’s known for tapping into her own life experiences to write about race, sexuality, social status and identity. 

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“The most important reason we need poetry now is for us to cleanse, to understand ourselves, to forgive ourselves and forgive those around us,” she said. “To become more human.” 

Cisneros visited her hometown for a reading of her new book at the Field Museum. “Woman Without Shame” is her first published collection of poems in 28 years. 

“It was a beautiful audience. They gave me a standing ovation when I came in and they made me wanna cry, I almost cried,” she said of the event. “I was just overwhelmed by the wave of love that’s here in Chicago for me.” 

Cisneros spoke with “Chicago Tonight” at the Robey Hotel in Wicker Park, an area she says holds many memories. The only daughter of Mexican immigrants grew up with six brothers on Chicago’s West Side in a neighborhood that inspired her book, “The House on Mango Street.”

“We are literally in the intersections of my life because I grew up on several Chicago neighborhoods, but specifically the one everyone knows about is my Humboldt Park home, which is a few blocks from here on Campbell Street, which I renamed Mango Street in my book,” Cisneros said. “I shopped in Milwaukee Avenue, I took the … train to go to Loyola University. My last apartment was on Paulina.” 

Cisneros has received numerous awards, including a 2015 National Medal of Arts at the White House. 

“There’s not a day that I’m not astonished by where my life has taken me because I was that quiet girl in the classroom that never raised her hand,” she said. “That learned how to defend myself by lowering my head and not sticking out.” 

 She spoke about her journey in finding her voice between her Mexican and American identities.

“You have to search to decolonize yourself and you’re going to have to find your chosen family,” she said.

In her latest work, Cisneros shares her thoughts on being a Latina woman navigating love, family, aging and death.

Chicago was the last stop on her book tour before she headed home to San Miguel de Allende, the Mexican city where she’s lived for years.

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