A House of My Own: Stories from My Life by Sandra Cisneros

photo of 5 yellow stars on a pink and blue background

I timed my reading of “A House of My Own” (paid link) by Sandra Cisneros so that I would finish it before I saw her speak via Zoom at the 2021 Las Vegas Book Festival for their NEA Big Read presentation.

I scored a signed copy of “A House on Mango Street.” It’s earned a treasured spot on my bookshelf.

The talk itself invigorated me. It was skewed more toward teachers, but I just sat there and soaked up what she had to say. She’s such a tough old bird.

I Tweeted her three pieces of advice, which I share here for you to have as well:

  1. Make your own money
  2. Control your fertility
  3. Embrace solitude

I’m three for three, so I’m on the right path.

As a student of English literature, I’ve read a lot of and been exposed to many authors over the years.

Many of them were unrelatable to me, not that I’m the type of reader who can’t separate the fictitious life of a character from the author who wrote about them.

More like authors who weren’t like me, didn’t grow up in two different cultures, the only child in a big family without children, a woman who chose to make her living by her pen and found it to be a more fulfilling life.

I immediately gravitated to Sandra when I read “Mango Street” (paid link) for a class in undergrad.

Esperanza carried the world on her shoulders as small as Mango Street was to her, but she and her community’s story touches everyone who reads it. You have to be an automaton not to feel something after finishing that novel.

But “A House of My Own” cut me to the bone.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always wanted a place to call my home. Sure, I’ve always had a roof over my head or food in my stomach, but they weren’t my chosen locations.

It was always my parents looking out for me. I’m grateful for that, but there’s something about earning your way.

But I’m a selfish person. You have to be when you grow up the fourth of five children. Everything in our family – and our Filipino culture – is shared and shared alike.

Why can’t I have something I didn’t have to share with anyone else? That was mine I earned from the blood, sweat, and tears of my hard work. That’s the American Dream.

I was in awe as I consumed her words on the page. It was like speaking to an old friend about the ups and downs of life. I cried many times because she was saying everything in my heart that I thought I had worked through over the years.

Certain aspects of my past are what they are; they made me who I am. Sometimes, I wish I had taken a different path: turning left instead of right. The book made me realize I took the right turn because it suited me. Those moments don’t define me; the journey does, and the journey will get the words on the page.

Admittedly, that’s the most challenging part of being a writer, but I can’t imagine doing anything else.

I’m going to get a house of my own someday. I don’t care how small or long it will take. It’s happening.

And the words spilling from my fingers are what’s going to fund it.

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