First Gen Icon: Sandra Cisneros

First Gen Icon: Sandra Cisneros

Contributed by Alejandra Flores

During the summer, students use this time to unwind and say goodbye to their school year, freeing themselves of assignments, work projects and classmates. Despite the fact that summer is for relaxation and fun, this can also be a great time to enjoy and submerge into literature.

This time allows you to learn something new, revisit a favorite novel and perhaps getting to know yourself better. Summer readings do not have to be disciplinary or academic. Summer is a time for fun and adventure, and so should your readings. An author to recommend for this summer would be Sandra Cisneros. Cisneros' literature is filled with adventure, poetry, love, and a sense of simplicity yet it gathers the reader's attention, transporting them into each and every story. It's difficult to pick one story, every single writing piece has its own magic and each story its own purpose - to relate to each story and appreciate each passage and embrace the development of each character. In order to appreciate these stories, we must also discuss the author and why her stories are relatable and worthy of our attention. Sandra Cisneros is a Mexican American author, famously known for her best seller The House on Mango Street.

Cisneros was born December 20th, 1954 in Chicago, Illinois. Her father, Alfredo Cisneros de Moral, was a Mexican immigrant who arrived to the United States after beginning unable to continue his higher education. He met his wife, Elvira Cordero in America. She will not only be his life companion but also the mother of "six sons and a daughter" - a term that will remain in Sandra's mind with great impact within her writings. Sandra's family spent the majority of their life traveling between the United States and Mexico, leaving Sandra and her siblings to be raised between two different cultures.

While still at a young age, Sandra Cisneros detested having to move from place to place, always worried about where they will live, where the children will go to school and where her parents would work. However, thanks to these events, Sandra obtained the inspiration much needed for her writings later in life. Every time they've traveled back to America, they will settle in neighborhoods in Chicago, which Cisneros recalls as "France after World War II - empty lots and burned - out buildings" ( This caused Cisneros to feel displaced, but ultimately found herself in her writings.

Sandra Cisneros, Author, writer, first generation, student,Growing up in the 1950's, it was typical and almost predictable that a young woman like Cisneros would fall into the path of their mothers' of marriage then children. This old, yet traditional mentality in the Latino community can have a huge impact on how young people, specifically young women view themselves.

Sandra understood the hardship of being a homemaker and a mother, however she knew this path was not meant for her. Her mother, Elvira Cordero wanted more for her only daughter. "Growing up a Chicana in the poor barrios of Chicago...She watched as the women around her gave up and gave in, accepting lives of second class citizens, beholden to their fathers, their brothers and their husbands, and their priests."( Although living in the 50's era, Sandra Cisneros' mother knew and understood the view of Sandra and encouraged her daughter to focus on her education. Cisneros attended catholic schools, yet her education was "less than ideal...if I had lived up to my teacher's expectations, I'd still be working in a factory."

Sandra knew she had to defeat the odds and the stereotypes through her education. As a high school student, Sandra Cisneros enjoyed writing poetry and participated in her high school's magazine as editor. She had found an outlet for her creativity, but even though she was talented, Sandra did not believe her future success would be thanks to the stroke of a pen. Sandra Cisneros parents believed in the value of a higher education. Her parents made it clear that a college degree was "the only way their children could break the bonds of poverty."

In 1976, Cisneros found herself attending Loyola University in Chicago, making her a first generation student to go to college. Her mother supported her decision to obtain a higher education, knowing that this was the right path for Sandra in order to break the stereotype she had been trying to avoid. Sandra knew in order to succeed, a higher education was fundamental.

Sandra decided to obtain a Bachelor's degree in English because although her father agreed that in order to have a different path in life to avoid poverty, he also believed "daughters were meant for husbands. It meant it didn't matter if I majored in something silly like English." Sandra understood the true value of a higher education. She knew that a college degree will give her the freedom she longed for, and it would allow her to be independent, leading her to become the woman she is today.

After graduating college, Sandra Cisneros did not become the author we know today. Instead she found passion in teaching high school students that unfortunately had to drop out of school. Cisneros focused her energy at Latino Youth High School where she became invested in helping students that struggled with academic success, poverty, racism and socio economic barriers. This experience gave Sandra insight into what minorities and young immigrants faced day to day, and gave her the decision to join the Iowa Writers Workshop at the University of Iowa. "It was while attending the Workshop that Cisneros discovered how the particular social position she occupied gave her writings a unique potential."

Sandra Cisneros, Author, writer, first generation, student,She recalls being suddenly struck by the differences between her and her classmates, "It wasn't as if I didn't know who I was. I knew I was a Mexican woman. But I didn't think it had anything to do with why I felt so much imbalance in my life, whereas it had everything to do with it! My race, my gender, and my class! And it didn't make sense until that moment, sitting in that seminar. That's when I decided I would write about something my classmates couldn't write about," (wikipedia). This opportunity gave Cisneros the inspiration to write. Her vocation would be to give a voice to those unable to speak.

Deciding to work on her higher education demonstrated how important it is to reach your goals. There can be various factors why someone would consider college a path to choose. It can open many doors to amazing opportunities that a college career can offer. Like Sandra Cisneros, many first generation students find the key to escaping poverty by obtaining better life opportunities that otherwise would not be possible without a college degree.

Sandra Cisneros is another example of a first-generation success story, an individual from whom we all can learn. Sandra Cisneros is someone that first-generation college students can learn something valuable from and she has paved a path for all of us to follow.