Sandra Cisneros looks back

Bob Edwards Weekend

The following is not a full transcript; for full story, listen to audio.

Twenty five years ago, a young Mexican-American writer published a slim book of vignettes titled "The House on Mango Street." On first glance, "Mango Street" didn’t look like a cultural and literary phenomenon, but writer Sandra Cisneros’ lyrical pose and honesty about growing up in a predominantly Latino neighborhood in Chicago was impossible to ignore.

Largely autobiographical, Cisneros’ coming-of-age tale broke new ground for Latino writers, and the art of the novel. And while there’s nothing traditional about Cisneros’ book, there’s something very familiar about her characters and the way they interact with each other and grow into themselves. As a testimony to its influences, "The House on Mango Street" has become required reading in many middle schools, high schools and universities across the U.S.

These days, Cisneros is an established writer. She’s the author of two books of short stories, a book of poetry, and "Caramello," a novel published in 2002. But the 25th anniversary of "The House on Mango Street" has given Cisneros a chance to revisit and remember her younger self:

"Oh, I think the person who wrote this was the writer in search of her ‘ism’ — I was looking for my politics — my feminism, my Marxism, my anarchism, my any-ism. I was just an artist without political direction, and I was surrounded my people who were a little older than me, and they were ardent in their political beliefs.

"I was working at an alternative high school with some idealists, and I just didn’t know what I was going to grow up to be. I was doubting whether writing was the best way to make social change, I was doubting whether I was going to ever make any change in the world. So I had a lot of doubts and I put that into my protagonist."

Cisneros says 25 years ago, her question for "House on Mango Street" was, "…how do I make change for these young women that I’m working with. What’s the route for young women who are inheriting a very patriarchal culture — regardless of whether they’re white or brown."

Also in this hour: In July 2005, Scott Hicks began filming a documentary about Philip Glass. Hicks had unprecedented access to the composer, following him across three continents — from New York City to his vacation property in Nova Scotia to the world premiere of his new opera in Germany and to a solo performance in Australia. On April 8th, "Glass: A Portrait of Philip in Twelve Parts" premieres on the PBS program American Masters.

Bob Edwards Weekend" is a two-hour interview showcase, in which celebrated host Bob Edwards highlights the life and work of interesting people, from newsmakers, historians, and authors to artists, actors, and regular folks too. The show is produced by XM Satellite Radio and distributed nationwide by PRI.

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