Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Kansas City, MO receives Sandra Cisneros

Dreams Come True: Sandra Cisneros in Kansas City

by Xánath Caraza,

member of the Latino Writers Collective (LWC),
Kansas City, MO

“I am astonished to find such a literary oasis with such strong writers..." These were the words from Sandra Cisneros in a letter sent to Linda Rodriguez, Vice President of the Latino Writers Collective (LWC), after her visit to Kansas City, Missouri. latinowriterscollective.org

Sandra Cisneros spoke at the historic building of the Central Library in Kansas City, Missouri on April 16, 2009 at 7 p.m. This gala event was part of her nationwide tour celebrating the 25th anniversary of The House on Mango Street. Cisneros’ appearance was an important component of the Tercera Página Reading Series the LWC organizes each year.

The arrival of Sandra Cisneros in Kansas City was an astonishing dream realized by the LWC. Forming this dream was at the beginning of the LWC Reading Series three years ago when the founding members happened to fantasize aloud. Among the storm of ideas was inviting Sandra Cisneros as guest speaker. She arrived and has now left her footprint in Kansas City. She has revitalized the LWC, the many students she talked to, and the many, without exaggeration, many people she individually talked with during her book signing, demonstrating her care for those around her.

For her first appearance, Cisneros was introduced by LWC member Gabriela Lemmons and greeted by an outstanding audience of nearly 900, a record-breaking number of audience members. The event was underway when Cisneros shared with the audience how The House on Mango Street evolved: Cisneros’ self-identification at the time of writing her first novel, the importance of her own voice, her experience as a teacher, her struggles with her father, and the pride her mother had for her. “…Se lleva las manos a la cintura y dice orgullosa: ‘Salió a mí’” (page xvi La casa en Mango Street)

After Cisneros’ speech, the forum was open to an exciting question and answer session. Cisneros commented on ways to find one’s own voice when writing, woman empowerment, her own family history (including Kansas City), and how The House on Mango Street became accessible to everyone. She also commented on the significance of proving to herself that she is an independent person.

Cisneros’ positive energy permeates her being. She demonstrated this as she individually chatted with each audience member requesting her autograph. She gave of herself to each person in line waiting for the book signing session. !Ella es incredible! Consequently, what one receives from her is her central presence in the moment with the people around her and her concern for their future.

At the Kansas City Plaza Library, Cisneros met with local high school students the following day, April 17 at 1 p.m. She had a repeat performance of her magic with a tailor-made approach for this audience relating her personal experience growing up with that of the students in the audience, enchanting the many students present for her talk. Cisneros’ ability to connect with different audiences was perceived yet again in Kansas City, Missouri. She was able to communicate to this young audience the importance of expressing their feelings, processing these feeling, and feeling secure in actually having these feelings. However, most notably she encouraged these high school students to write, to read, and to educate themselves.

In Cisneros’ own words “I couldn't have found a more loving and supportive community… and make sure I come back." (Cisneros’ letter to Linda Rodriguez). From Kansas City, Sandra, we lift our voices out of your inspiration and say to you, Gracias! More photos, courtesy of Stephen Holland-Wempe and Oscar Pedroza, will follow in a future post very soon. They illustrate moments of this unforgettable event.


PeaceLoveKB said...

Listening to Sandra Cisneros speak was reminiscent of speaking one on one with a friend. Anyone who was there knows and agrees that Sandra must truly understand what it means in life to be 100% present to those around you. She spoke with a passion for writing that made even me believe I should write, that I am important enough to have a story to tell and that I don’t have to use a thesaurus to somehow vibrantly convey my ideas. It’s always hard to explain in words how without even personally addressing someone they can illuminate such a presence and passion; but Sandra does. And to put it simply as she would want me to- you can’t know unless you’re in a room with her and then you’ll feel her calming yet still fiery aura.

Esteban said...

Sandra Cisneros, te quiero decir que la verdad me encanto escucharte y placticar contigo a cerca de tu gran influencia en la gente a traves de tu literatura y de tu ser en general! Tu vibra me gusto muchisimo! Mil gracias por estar con nosotros aqui en la Ciudad de Kansas.

Tu fan mas grande.

Un fuerte abrazo, Esteban

Christina said...

I really enjoyed going to the Kansas City Library and seeing Sandra Cisneros because she is an author that I have read all through high school and into college. I felt very comfortable around her as she was speaking and like she wanted us to know about her life. Her writing style is very different, and I love how she switches back and forth between english and spanish. A lot of the ideas and words used were somethings that I could relate to being mexican-american. So I really enjoy how I can relate to her in some ways. I thoroughly enjoyed meeting her. Thank you so much for coming to Kansas City.

Thank you!

nancy said...

I went Cisneros’s talk at the Kansas City Plaza Library invited by my friends, Xanath and Steve. The talk turned out to be better than good. I felt a connection with her from the get-go. Cisneros was warm and responsive toward her audiences. Her message shares a strong resonance with her teenager readers in particular. They were visibly moved by her reading as she recalled a girl who felt shy, insignificant and humiliated as she was neither beautiful nor popular. However, writing was her saving grace. It soothed her and transformed her. In the end, I came away feeling empowered with her message, “get a book and fall in love with it!” It is a simple but powerful one. In the age of the Internet, people have stopped reading. But reading forces one to think and dream. I would love to see all kids learn the joy of reading as it does not only help them succeed in whichever career they choose, but it also helps them literally see and feel the world. Cisneros is clearly a strong believer of the power of words. Thanks for bringing such a beautiful person and writer to KC.

Barbara said...

I thought there would be a few dozen people at the most, so imagine my surprise when there was standing room only, balcony seats and chairs so close together you could barely slip a piece of paper between.

Another surprise for me? How “real” Ms. Cisnero’s was for an author. I know. We have an author in the family. Sometimes you don’t know when the story ends and where reality begins. Am I material for the next book? This is usually what we ask ourselves quietly among family members. But, Ms. Cisnero’s made me feel like I had known her all my life. Perhaps I have. I casually looked at the faces of others in the room and I noticed how focused people were on what she was saying. She definitely has a way of drawing a person to her. Like a moth to a flame I would say.

Her voice was not what I expected either. I thought her voice would be deeper for some reason. To me it sounded lyrical; a sing song voice.

What I liked most of all were her tips on becoming a writer. While I don’t agree with everything she said, (I think significant others can be very supportive), telling the young people to read really made my day. She hit the spot with saying children don’t read for pleasure. I wish parents, teachers and other adults in a child’s life would encourage reading more. She expressed my sentiments exactly when saying reading opens up new worlds. I know it did for me and continues to this day.

Lastly, I had my old beat up copy of The House on Mango Street signed by Ms. Cisneros'!

Barbara R.

Francisco Aragón said...

Thank you for these wonderful comments!

Liliana said...

I was so glad to hear of Ms. Cisneros' visit to KC. Having lived there for almost 7 years, I could not help but feel proud and touched by her presence. She indeed left an imprint on the younger audience. "The House on Mango Street" was the book that introduced me to the world of U.S. Latino Literature. As an Argentine reader, it expanded my vision of Latino literature and women. I sincerely await her return. Gracias Sandra!!

Abby said...

Sandra Cisnero's presentation in Kansas City was a once in a lifetime event. She was very enjoyable to listen to and made the audience feel very comfortable to be around her. What interested me was that she speaks like she writes: her words flow in a way that allows the listener/reader to be able to get lost in the story. She said "You have to walk through the valley of despair to get to the other side." That quote really touched me and made me realize that my dreams are within my reach, even though it might not be an easy road getting there. I truly respect Sandra for the talent she possesses. I loved hearing her speak and describing her way of thinking while she writes. It is amazing how such wonderful ideas can come to someone's mind. I hope that one day she will return!

Russ said...

Her brief presentation was so revealing. In her relaxed, charming, and witty personal stories, I hear the voice of a richly warm woman with a backbone of flexible steel, a woman who is secure in her own clearly authentic selfhood. Although I was disappointed in the brevity of her speech, I enjoyed seeing how gracefully she responded to questions from the audience — especially the more extended inquiries.


Jan Rog said...

Fortunate to attend Friday afternoon with so many students, I sat next to one of my students, enchanted by this gentle author. Xanath's article truly reflects the great admiration of the audience, and it is certain Sandra Cisneros left a great impact on me and my students. Many of my students attended Thursday night's presentation: among them a 17-year old young woman seeking college, a scholarship baseball player, a woman returning to college after 20 years of raising children, and another woman who brought her daughters and granddaughters.

All of my students and many more people whom I met when I attended were touched by Sandra Cisneros' spirit - - gentle and brave at the same time. Many shyly inquired about pursuing their own writing. A few others, not so shyly, began to plan which of their poems they'll share with our Latino Writers Collective of Kansas City. What a great combination: Sandra Cisneros and Latino Writers Collective. Watch out! I know these students and what they are capable of doing!

I'm looking forward to more of Sandra Cisneros, and I'm certain much of that will surface in what I read in others' writings.

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