didn’t last too long until a lot of trouble started, so that I finally marched out with a lot of anger and got another apartment, but it was hard. P: What drove you? S: My home was a very loving home, with a mother and father who loved us all and built enough self-esteem to survive in communities and schools which didn’t love us. But I think what drove me away was the feeling that I was restricted by Mexican traditions. I love the good things about Mexican tradition, the life and the family. But it was very restricted for a daughter, and it had handicapped me in a way that made me feel helpless. My mother is still part of that. She can’t drive, can’t get around, and I didn’t know how to drive until very late again, because they didn’t take the time to teach me like they had done with the boys. I think we get out of our parents’ house to take control of our own destinies. To control my own sexuality. To control the way I live. To control my own life choices everything that was contrary to my mother and father. My mother gave me my room, but my father expected me to stay there until someone came and got me. I wanted to get out. The last thing I wanted to do was to get married and get stuck in Chicago. P: When did the dream come? S: I guess when I was in graduate school. The idea at least to become a writer. But I was stuck when I finished no money and I found a job teaching high-school dropouts. You know, I didn’t know how the writing was going to make any difference to the politics I was forming working in my community. But it has been just the opposite, and of course it is just the opposite because the school I went to never taught us ways in which writing could make a difference to anybody. So politics and writing were very separate. I thought writing was good for me, but what good was it for the students I was working with or the young girls having babies? It’s only now that I see the two merging. It’s incredible. I did the writing because I had to, and I set goals for myself and was very aggressive about these goals. P: From early on? S: Oh yes, Like, by the end of this year I’ll have these stories published, by the end of this year, I’ll finish a novel I was,very self-driven. But I didn’t see how all that had to do with my work in the community or the community organizing I did. I didn’t see them overlapping or affecting each other. P: It seems like poetry and stories for so many years have been treated like something other than real live, that the power was taken away from them. S: That’s right. I think that we are not getting that many stories that are powerful or passion Sandra Cisneros felt or capable of motivating. The kinds of things we get in workshops are always interested in technique and are written many times by a very privileged group of people who don’t have anything to say. They were so much more concerned in my workshop with how a thing is said rather than what’s being said. P: And yet when those stories come along that hit us, then I think everybody recognizes the worth in that, the crustiest of creative writing teachers will say, “Ah … some truth here.” S: Yes, but they can never tell you why why don’t they ever tell us that? P: I was thinking along these lines while reading your stories. What is it in these words and the arrangement on the page that goes beyond THE TEXAS OBSERVER 5
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