Vintage Readers are a perfect introduction to some of the great modern writers presented in attractive, accessible paperback editions.
"Sandra Cisneros knows both that the heart can be broken and that it can rise and soar like a bird. Whatever story she chooses to tell, we should be listening for a long time to come." --The Washington Post Book World
A winner of the PEN Center West Award for Best Fiction and the prestigious MacArthur Fellowship, Sandra Cisneros evokes working-class Latino experience with an irresistible mix of realism and lyrical exuberance.
Vintage Cisneros features an excerpt from her bestselling novel The House on Mango Street, which has become a favorite in school classrooms across the country. Also included are a chapter from her new novel, Caramelo; a generous selection of poems from My Wicked Wicked Ways and Loose Woman; and seven stories from her award-winning collection Woman Hollering Creek.
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January 05, 2004
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Excerpt from Vintage Cisneros by Sandra Cisneros
Everybody in our family has different hair. My Papa's
hair is like a broom, all up in the air. And me, my hair is lazy. It never obeys barrettes or bands. Carlos' hair is thick and straight. He doesn't need to comb it. Nenny's hair is slippery-slides out of your hand. And Kiki, who is the youngest, has hair like fur.
But my mother's hair, my mother's hair, like little rosettes, like little candy circles all curly and pretty because she pinned it in pincurls all day, sweet to put your nose into when she is holding you, holding you and you feel safe, is the warm smell of bread before you bake it, is the smell when she makes room for you on her side of the bed still warm with her skin, and you sleep near her, the rain outside falling and Papa snoring. The snoring, the rain, and Mama's hair that smells like bread.
In English my name means hope. In Spanish it means too many letters. It means sadness, it means waiting. It is like the number nine. A muddy color. It is the Mexican records my father plays on Sunday mornings when he is shaving, songs like sobbing.
It was my great-grandmother's name and now it is mine. She was a horse woman too, born like me in the Chinese year of the horse-which is supposed to be bad luck if you're born female-but I think this is a Chinese lie because the Chinese, like the Mexicans, don't like their women strong.
My great-grandmother. I would've liked to have known her, a wild horse of a woman, so wild she wouldn't marry. Until my great-grandfather threw a sack over her head and carried her off. Just like that, as if she were a fancy chandelier. That's the way he did it.
And the story goes she never forgave him. She looked out the window her whole life, the way so many women sit their sadness on an elbow. I wonder if she made the best with what she got or was she sorry because she couldn't be all the things she wanted to be. Esperanza. I have inherited her name, but I don't want to inherit her place by the window.
At school they say my name funny as if the syllables were made out of tin and hurt the roof of your mouth. But in Spanish my name is made out of a softer something, like silver, not quite as thick as sister's name-Magdalena-which is uglier than mine. Magdalena who at least can come home and become Nenny. But I am always Esperanza.
I would like to baptize myself under a new name, a name more like the real me, the one nobody sees. Esperanza as Lisandra or Maritza or Zeze the X. Yes. Something like Zeze the X will do.
OUR GOOD DAY
If you give me five dollars I will be your friend forever. That's what the little one tells me.
Five dollars is cheap since I don't have any friends except Cathy who is only my friend till Tuesday.
Five dollars, five dollars.
She is trying to get somebody to chip in so they can buy a bicycle from this kid named Tito. They already have ten dollars and all they need is five more.
Only five dollars, she says.
Don't talk to them, says Cathy. Can't you see they smell like a broom.
But I like them. Their clothes are crooked and old. They are wearing shiny Sunday shoes without socks. It makes their bald ankles all red, but I like them. Especially the big one who laughs with all her teeth. I like her even though she lets the little one do all the talking.
Five dollars, the little one says, only five.
Cathy is tugging my arm and I know whatever I do next will make her mad forever.
Wait a minute, I say, and run inside to get the five dollars. I have three dollars saved and I take two of Nenny's. She's not home, but I'm sure she'll be glad when she finds out we own a bike. When I get back, Cathy is gone like I knew she would be, but I don't care. I have two new friends and a bike too.
My name is Lucy, the big one says. This here is Rachel my sister.
I'm her sister, says Rachel. Who are you?
And I wish my name was Cassandra or Alexis or Maritza-anything but Esperanza-but when I tell them my name they don't laugh.
We come from Texas, Lucy says and grins. Her was born here, but me I'm Texas.
You mean she, I say.
No, I'm from Texas, and doesn't get it.
This bike is three ways ours, says Rachel who is thinking ahead already. Mine today, Lucy's tomorrow and yours day after.
But everybody wants to ride it today because the bike is new, so we decide to take turns after tomorrow. Today it belongs to all of us.
I don't tell them about Nenny just yet. It's too complicated. Especially since Rachel almost put out Lucy's eye about who was going to get to ride it first. But finally we agree to ride it together. Why not?
Because Lucy has long legs she pedals. I sit on the back seat and Rachel is skinny enough to get up on the handlebars which makes the bike all wobbly as if the wheels are spaghetti, but after a bit you get used to it.
We ride fast and faster. Past my house, sad and red and crumbly in places, past Mr. Benny's grocery on the corner, and down the avenue which is dangerous. Laundromat junk store, drugstore, windows and cars and more cars, and around the block back to Mango.