On Wednesday, April 26, the University of Utah’s Tanner Humanities Center invited author Sandra Cisneros to meet with 5th grade students at Mountain View Elementary as part of her Artist in Residence visit.
The Tanner Center provided the 40 students with Cisneros’ book, “The House on Mango Street,” in both English and Spanish to read and study before her visit. A coming of age novel about a young Latina girl in Chicago, the book has sold more than six million copies and is required reading in many schools across the U.S.
During the visit, Cisneros, gave the students valuable advice for success and took questions from them about her book, career and even her personal life.
“Not even the New York Times asked me questions like these,” exclaimed Cisneros.
Cisneros encouraged the bilingual students, who are part of the Dual Immersion program, to learn as many languages as possible in order to understand the world a little better.
“There are a lot of communities who are afraid of each other and we don’t want to live in fear. Languages help us understand each other.”
She encouraged the attentive audience to “dream big, not little” and take a step towards that dream each day. Going back and forth from Spanish to English, she told a story of when she went to the library as a child and she imagined her name written on one of the books. From then on, she promised herself she would take a step toward becoming an author each day.
She gave the students her best three pieces of advice to having a successful life. First, earn your own money. Second, wait until you’re older to have children. Third, it’s ok to be alone. It allows you to develop yourself.
As for becoming a writer, she advised them to include all five senses in their stories in order to make them come alive and told them, “writing comes from the heart, editing comes from the brain.”
The evening prior to her visit with students, Cisneros spoke to KUER’s Doug Fabrizio at a public event in the Jeanne Wagner Theatre at Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center. As one of seven children, the lone daughter, Cisneros spoke of how her family shaped her throughout her life and she fondly recalled her mother’s insistence on exposure to literature and the arts, with weekly visits to museums and concerts in the park.
Cisneros also discussed her motivations for relocating home to Mexico after living in San Antonio, Texas, and chatted about the fluidity of American culture from Northern Canada to the Patagonia. She surprised the audience with a reading of her yet-to-be published poem, “Dolor” and reminded everyone to work to come together, to explore our common humanity through dialogue and through the arts.