Sandra Cisneros on Looking Through Her Past Writing
Below is excerpted from the introduction to A House of My Own: Stories from My Life by Sandra Cisneros, who will be honored with the 2019 PEN/Nabokov Award for Achievement in International Literature. Along with other literary luminaries, Cisneros will join us for the Awards Ceremony on February 26, 2019, at the NYU Skirball Center. Purchase tickets for the event here »
A long time ago, which was yesterday, I could tell time by the typeface on my manuscripts. I mean yesterday BC—Before Computers. I owned a variety of manual typewriters and only gradually and reluctantly moved into the electronic world without somehow ever managing to get ahold of the Rolls-Royce of typewriters—an IBM.
I roamed about the earth and borrowed typewriters in Greece, France, the former Yugoslavia, Mexico, and throughout the United States. My manuscripts were sheaves of paper with holes from where the placket struck the page too fiercely. And everywhere I went, the poems or stories or essays I typed, with their mismatched typefaces and consistent typing errors, reminded me, like passport stamps, where I’d been.
Sometimes I was living on a grant, sometimes I was living in a borrowed house or guest room. Sometimes I convinced myself I was in love, but most of the time I lived alone in a space that wasn’t mine with bills that flared like small fires. That meant I passed through a lot of houses, loves, and typewriters, never quite finding the right one.
I am writing this now on a laptop in central Mexico, in a region where my ancestors lived for centuries. My office is a leather equipal table and chair on a covered terrace. On either side of me, a Chihuahua snoozes. Next door a palm tree rattles like a maraca, and down in the town center a church bell gongs the hour.
In my last house in San Antonio, Texas, I worked in a two-story office in my backyard and lived with a flock of dogs that followed me about like Mary’s little lamb. I still own dogs, and I still have a lot of typefaces on my manuscripts; some files I can’t open because the computer is long gone and so is the software. I count the passing of time by the purchase of writing machines.
So I’m gathering up my stray lambs that have wandered out of sight and am herding them under one roof, not so much for the reader’s sake, but my own. Where are you, my little loves, and where have you gone? Who wrote these and why? I have a need to know, so that I can understand my life.
From A House of My Own: Stories from My Life. Copyright © 2015 by Sandra Cisneros. Published in the United States by Vintage Books, a division of Penguin Random House LLC, New York. By permission of Susan Bergholz Literary Services, New York City and Lamy, NM. All rights reserved.