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Writer Sandra Cisneros: a Chicana who broke the rules

If one attended the prestigious Iowa Writer’s Workshop in the 1960s as a minority, as did Sandra Cisneros, one would have learned a thing or two about marketing as well as writing.

pg7 copyCertain books you would discover were not part of the literary canon and would likely never be included. Among them would be memoirs of unknown minority women, novels that mixed English and Spanish, or ones that used Chicana slang. Even worse than using “Spanglish” would be to write a book that was neither fiction nor non-fiction but some hybrid bastard child employing both.

It was also clear that whatever you chose to write about, if you were a Latina your chances of getting published by a mainstream press were absolutely nil, the best you could hope for would be publication by an independent or university press with limited distribution, 500-1,000 copies for a new writer.

So, the academic world was stunned when Cisneros first novel, “The House on Mango Street,” was not only published by a major New York house (which purchased it from Arte Publico Press) but went on to sell over six million copies. Not only was she the first Mexican American woman to have her work distributed by a major New York brand, but the book also broke all the rules.

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