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Groundbreaking author: Sandra Cisneros will speak, sign books during New Mexico visit

“In English, my name means hope. In Spanish, it means too many letters. It means sadness, it means waiting.”

These are the words spoken by Esperanza Cordero in Sandra Cisneros’ 1984 classic “The House on Mango Street.”

The coming-of-age novel cemented Cisneros’ place in the literary world.

The novel followed Experanza, a young Latina who is determined to say goodbye to her impoverished Latino neighborhood in Chicago.

More than 30 years later, Cisneros says the problems Esperanza faced exist in today’s world.

“I actually finished the book in 1982,” she says. “The sad part about all this ringing true is at the time, I wrote the book because I thought there would be a better day. It hasn’t happened. Especially right now. We’re in turmoil.”

Cisneros is coming to the Land of Enchantment and will have public engagements in both Santa Fe and Albuquerque.

She will deliver the keynote address at the 18th annual UNM Summer Writer’s Conference in Santa Fe.

The Summer Writers’ Conference, which had been held in Taos for nearly two decades, has moved to Santa Fe and renamed the University of New Mexico Summer Writers’ Conference. The gathering runs from Sunday, July 24 through July 31 and is expected to draw writers from around the country.

Each year, the conference invites agents, editors and publishing professionals to consult with conference participants. Daily round tables and faculty readings round out the conference experience.

USA Today named the event one of the top 10 writers’ conferences in the country.

She then will read pieces from her works at 6:30 p.m. Sunday, July 24, at the Drury Plaza Hotel in Santa Fe.

At 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 27, Cisneros and Tey Marianna Nunn, director of the National Hispanic Cultural Center Art Museum, will conduct an intimate and personal tour of “The House on Mango Street: Artists Interpret Community.”

The exhibit, organized by the National Museum of Mexican Art in Chicago, uses Cisneros’ “The House on Mango Street” to address issues surrounding childhood, growing up, community and identity.

The visual artists featured in the exhibition explore experiences prevalent in working-class neighborhoods from various cities, ethnic backgrounds and walks of life to identify commonalities in their coming-of-age experiences. The works of art feature major themes of the book, including hope, personal dreams, hardship, disillusionment, family, community, home, identity, relationships, independence, coming of age and storytelling.

This event costs $25 and is limited to 40 participants.

The second NHCC event will be held at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, July 28. Cisneros will have a reading and book signing. This is a free ticketed event, and tickets are available one hour before the show.

It will be held in the Bank of America Theatre at the NHCC.

“The talk with Tey is something different,” she says. “This was something we didn’t do in Chicago, and it will make it exciting.”

Her latest book is the memoir “A House of My Own: Stories From My Life,” released in 2015.

Cisneros is living in Mexico now and says she’s in a transition period in her life.

“I’m right in the beginning of what I’m going to do next,” she says. “I’m always a little hesitant when it comes to writing. I wish I could pound out something in every situation. I wish I was that kind of writer.”

Cisneros is paying attention to the global climate and says it’s going to get worse before it gets better.

“It’s a delicate time, but I want it to be a fun and exciting day on the planet,” she says. “Change starts with one person, and art can make that change. When people say that art can’t make change, I beg to differ. I see people who have changed their lives, and it takes a lot of hard work. This is the struggle that every one of us has to go through. I get those testimonials from readers all the time.”

Looking back at “The House on Mango Street,” Cisneros says the book was created from a place of powerlessness.

“I want to continue to work from that place,” she says. “I wasn’t trying to do something grandiose. I was trying to go to sleep, and I was trying to figure out how I could get to sleep without pain. That’s how the book developed. It was an act of transforming darkness to light. It’s an alchemy.”

And the author is looking forward to getting back to New Mexico.

“I feel like in New Mexico and Mexico, we are connected to the spirit world,” she says. “It’s a place where inspiration will hit me.”

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