Check out this wonderful article by Christina Miranda for LatinxSpaces.com. Has anyone read any of these books? Comment below! I can say that Everyone Knows You Go Home is excellent and pairs beautifully with Oscar Cásares Where We Come From.


With summer officially here, there’s now plenty of time do some light (or heavy) reading, depending on your liking. Whether you are taking a vacation, a road trip, or working but squeezing in some reading in throughout the workday, we have compiled a summer reading list of Latinx books that are sure to entertain, inform, and inspire you throughout the hot few months ahead.



Sylvester’s second novel tells the story of an unexpected family reunion. Following Isabel and Martin’s wedding, Omar, Martin’s father, appears unexpectedly as a spirit visible only to Isabel. Still unwelcome after abandoning his family, Martin admits his being unaware of Omar’s passing. Every year after, on their wedding anniversary, Omar visits Isabel in order to redeem himself by offering her his story, and revealing parts of her new family and husband. Everyone Knows You Go Home offers a story embedded in the harsh, emotional reality of new lives in a new country, how it takes a brutal toll on one family’s future, and the uphill journey towards redemption in life and death.



As a Filipino immigrant, Jose Antonio Vargas lets the reader know right from the beginning that “this book is not about immigration at all.” Instead, Vargas takes a different approach to describing his new life in America through his immediate immersion in its culture, his fascination with it, and the discomfort experienced in not belonging to it or his Filipino culture. Dear America is about wandering for an identity not just during a fresh start but for the many years that follow, and the weight one bears in finding a home.



We are witnessing a new racial and social movement, and Chicana Movidas serves as the perfect companion to the new Chicana revolution. Containing multiple contributions from Chicana activists and scholars, the book traces the early stages of the early Chicana movement up into the new century. Focusing on multiple subjects, from race to gender and sexuality, this anthology serves as a refreshing contribution to social activism and identity equality.



Peña’s debut novel introduces us to Uli and his brother, Cuauhtémoc. After taking a joy ride on a crop duster plane over the U.S.-Mexico border, the two crash land in Mexico, leaving them injured and immediately separated. Uli finds himself in a hospital, while Cuauhtémoc wakes up as a hostage to a drug cartel. In between these narratives lies their mother, Araceli, who makes the difficult decision to cross back to Mexico in search of her sons. Throughout the narrative, the three characters navigate the normalized dangers of living in Mexico and illuminate the personal experiences of Mexicans caught in the middle of a drug war.



Sandra Cisneros offers a truly special piece of literature in her new chapbook, Puro Amor, presented in English and Spanish side-by-side along with illustrations by Cisneros herself. Artists Mister and Missus Rivera surround themselves with a great number of animals, to the point that neighbors believe they’re running a farm. Cisneros provides her animals, ranging from cats and dogs to a fawn and iguana, with a regal, spiritual quality. As the two maneuver through the complications of their marriage, the animals are what give her life and the love she desires.



Set in a South Texas dystopian future where multiple border walls have been erected, all narcotics have been legalized and cartels have begun to enter the biological black market, resurrecting and mutating extinct animal species for consumption and shrinking indigenous heads for the wealthy. Esteban Bellacosa is submerged in a dark underground world, coming across relics of the ancient past, including the lost Aranaña Tribe and their dirty Trufflepig, which possessed mystical powers. Flores’ debut novel is fascinating and sprinkled perfectly with dark humor and psychedelic imagery that pulls you deep into Bellacosa’s universe.



Set in the 19th century, Swedish immigrant Håkan Söderström sets out east from California in search of his brother Linus, who was separated from him during their voyage to America. Through his journey he encounters the brutality and struggle of the people migrating west as he himself attempts to understand the violent and confusing world around him as a non-English speaker. As Diaz’s first novel (a Pulitzer Prize finalist to boot), In the Distance is an appealing new take on the modern western novel, countering the traditionally masculinist and violent narrative through Håkan’s own criticisms against it, and the shame it brings him as he becomes pulled into the frontier it creates.



Paloma Martinez-Cruz makes a gastronomic analysis of the way Chicanx food has evolved and is currently evolving in order to create a clearer understanding of its appropriation and exploitation. From the treatment of farm workers in multiple countries who grow and harvest the foods that supply its industry, to the way that traditional Latinx and Chicanx foods have been appropriated by an Anglo luxury market, this culinary critique brings light to the issues that surround one of the most important cultural components of Latinx communities. Cruz successfully helps food consumers understand what is currently wrong with the way we produce food, and pushes us to act to improve the quality of the products we purchase and the lives of the individuals who produce them.


New Book: Undocumented Lives The Untold Story of Mexican Migration by Ana Raquel Minian

In the 1970s the Mexican government acted to alleviate rural unemployment by supporting the migration of able-bodied men. Millions crossed into the United States to find work that would help them survive as well as sustain their families in Mexico. They took low-level positions that few Americans wanted and sent money back to communities that depended on their support. But as U.S. authorities pursued more aggressive anti-immigrant measures, migrants found themselves caught between the economic interests of competing governments. The fruits of their labor were needed in both places, and yet neither country made them feel welcome.

Ana Raquel Minian explores this unique chapter in the history of Mexican migration. Undocumented Lives draws on private letters, songs, and oral testimony to recreate the experience of circular migration, which reshaped communities in the United States and Mexico. While migrants could earn for themselves and their families in the U.S., they needed to return to Mexico to reconnect with their homes periodically. Despite crossing the border many times, they managed to belong to communities on both sides of it. Ironically, the U.S. immigration crackdown of the mid-1980s disrupted these flows, forcing many migrants to remain north of the border permanently for fear of not being able to return to work. For them, the United States became known as the jaula de oro—the cage of gold.

Undocumented Lives tells the story of Mexicans who have been used and abused by the broader economic and political policies of Mexico and the United States.

Nuestra Historia: Alonso S. Perales Exhibit

Very cool work coming out of the University of Houston

On May 14, 2019, in a collaboration between the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) Council 60, the University of Houston’s Recovering the US Hispanic Literary Heritage/Arte Público Press, and SERJobs, members of the community gathered to celebrate the launch of the Alonso S. Perales Digital Archive. Among those in attendance was Perales’ daughter, Marta Perales Carrizales. This digital archive marks the first digitized collection on the Recovering the US Hispanic Literary Heritage Digital Archives site.

Alonso S. Perales was one of the most prominent US Civil rights leaders of the twentieth century. He was born in Alice, Texas in 1898. Perales served in the US Army during World War I. After his military service, he attended college and law school at the National University (which later became George Washington University). Upon receiving his law degree, Perales became only the third Mexican American to practice law in Texas (Olivas xi). Perales dedicated his life to Mexican American civil rights and empowering the working-class community through knowledge and education. In 1929, Perales co-founded of the League of Latin American Citizens (LULAC)–the first nationwide Mexican American civil rights organization, not to mention the largest and oldest US Latino political association. He served as the second LULAC national president from 1930 to 1931 (xiv). In addition to his work in the United States, Perales served as Nicaraguan Consul General for twenty-five years and as counsel to the Nicaraguan delegation to the United Nations in 1945. In addition, he helped draft the original Charter of the United Nations. Perales authored Are We Good Neighbors and two volumes of En defensa de mi raza. His writing stressed the need for anti-discrimination legislation and civil activism for the Latino community.

Alonso S. Perales Collection

The Alonso S. Perales Collection is Recovering the US Hispanic Literary Heritage’s flagship online digital archive. In 2009, Marta Perales Carrizales and Raymond Perales donated their father’s extensive personal papers to the University of Houston’s Recovery Program. This collection, which measures over 40 linear feet, contains correspondence, photographs, newspaper clippings, civil rights writings, and foundational documents related to LULAC. The online digital collection includes a large sampling of these documents. To facilitate accessibility, the digital documents include full-text transcriptions and bilingual keywords for searches. In the future, more US Latino digital archives will be added to the Recovering the US Hispanic Literary Heritage Digital Collections (available at: usldhrecovery.uh.edu). The original Alonso S. Perales Papers are housed at the University of Houston Libraries Special Collections.

Are We Good Neighbors? Mapping Discrimination Against Mexican Americans in 1940s Texas

Screenshot of Are We Good Neighbors? : Mapping Discrimination Against Mexican Americans in 1940s Texas. https://arcg.is/1C1bbv

Perales’ activism also included the empowerment of his community. He urged people to publicly share experiences of discrimination, including the names and addresses of businesses where they were refused service. Many of the testimonies sworn to him in his capacity as Notary Public appeared in his book, Are We Good Neighbors?

The digital mapping project, Are We Good Neighbors?, uses the information in these testimonials to locate these incidents on a map in an attempt to reveal the embodiment of racism. One after another, these accounts tell stories of everyday life: going out for dinner with family, spending time with friends, looking for employment, or moving to a new house. Yet, for people of Mexican descent, these activities were marked by disgust, hatred, shame, and even violence. This project highlights the personal history of racism, one that takes place in our own neighborhoods to real people, rather than distanced through abstract statistics.

Twitter: @AlonsoSPerales

The Alonso S. Perales Collection Twitter Bot (@AlonsoSPerales) also strives to bring attention to his activism. This Twitter account automatically posts quotations (in English and Spanish) from Perales’ writing and allows his voice to continue to advocate for education, equality, and justice.

The Perales Collection is extremely important for our understanding of the historical trajectory of US Latinx civil rights. The documents in this collection reveal the ways our community refused to remain silent, even in the face of persecution. Civil rights leaders such as Perales fought for justice long before the 1960s Civil Rights Movement. The history embedded in this collection is not readily available in K-12 history books. We hope that digital projects such as these can empower our community through education and help Latina/o/x schoolchildren see themselves reflected in US history in a positive light.


LULAC is the largest and oldest Hispanic Organization the United States. LULAC advances the economic condition, educational attainment, political influence, housing, health and civil rights of Hispanic Americans through community-based programs operating at more than 1,000 LULAC councils nationwide.

Recovering the US Hispanic Literary Heritage (“Recovery”) is an international program at the University of Houston dedicated to locating, preserving, and disseminating Hispanic cultural documents of the United States written since colonial times until 1980. Recovery in the premier center for research on Latino documentary history in the United States.

Arte Público Press is the oldest and largest Hispanic publisher in the United States. Established in 1979, it is the principal provider of cultural materials on Latino life in the United States for general and educational audiences.

SERJobs is a nonprofit community organization that educates and equips people in the Texas Gulf Coast Region who come from low-income backgrounds or who have significant barriers to employment.

Mural raises awareness of missing and murdered indigenous women

Check out this great article by Bethany Freudenthal from Las-Cruces Sun News


LAS CRUCES – She stands proudly, wind blowing through her hair, dressed in indigenous regalia: a maroon top with orange, yellow and white stripes, a blue, beaded necklace and a feather in her hair.

Her fist raised, she’s screaming with every strength of her being: “NO MORE STOLEN SISTERS!”

You’ve seen her

You may not have known who she is, or why she’s there, but chances are if you’ve driven Lohman Avenue recently, you’ve seen her.

Painted by artist Sebastian VELA Velazquez, she is part of the mural being painted on the Cruces Creatives building, 205 E Lohman Ave.

The mural, created in conjunction with the eighth annual “Illegal” graffiti art show, hosted each year by Las Cruces artist Saba, sends a powerful message.

She stands front and center of the mural, a reminder that indigenous women are going missing and being murdered.

“The news gets turned off and Facebook gets put down and turned off, and those issues kind of disappear, and everything that comes with it. Having that piece up there, and why we sponsored it, is because you can’t really turn off a mural. It’s there every day and every night,” Saba said.

The issue and reason for awareness

The National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center reports that Native women suffer from violence at a rate two and half times greater than that of any other population in the United States.

Earlier this year, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed a bill to develop a task force to investigate the issue of missing and murdered indigenous women in New Mexico.

New Mexico has the highest number of cases involving missing and murdered indigenous women, Rep. Andrea Romero, the bill’s sponsor, told the Farmington Daily Times.

Saba said he wants the community to remain aware of this issue.

“It does happen everywhere, and I’m speaking for Mexican people and Mexican women as well, because they’re also indigenous,” he said.

A part of a larger mural

But she’s just part of a large-scale mural wrapping around the entirety of the building.

To her right is another woman, wearing a hoku lei and holding a dove; and to the left of the indigenous woman is a vein-like creature wearing a helmet and surrounded by flowers.

Also a part of the mural: The word “CREATIVE,” which will eventually be filled in with collages.

The enclosure for the business’s dumpster is being beautified, and around the back of the building, there’s a mural of a woman surrounded by butterflies and clouds.

Hub Bike Shop is in the Cruces Creatives building. Now, you can’t miss their shop entrance, which is now adorned by a mural of bicycles.

Also in the mural: A calavera portrait and hot air balloons.

The eighth annual “Illegal” graffiti art show

This is the eighth year Saba has hosted the “Illegal” graffiti art show. Annually, about 75 to 100 artists from across the country participate.

“Art is medicine to people of color. I think aerosol art is a healing method, rather than a criminalizing method,” he said.

Mapping Resistance: The Young Lords in El Barrio

Absolutely incredible work done here. Please visit the original at this link: https://gothamtogo.com/mapping-resistance-the-young-lords-in-el-barrio-images-by-hiram-maristany-presented-by-miguel-luciano/?fbclid=IwAR1BUPPI7kYlQs4qCDw_20LPUyEGg7CVembsdthHJW-yKXSwv-HHsdyOAT4
by AFineLyneEast HarlemEl BarrioHiram MaristanyPhotographyYoung Lords
Mapping Resistance: The Young Lords in El Barrio ~ Images by Hiram Maristany. This image located on 99th Street, just west of Second Avenue, on the side wall of PS 109

Mapping Resistance: The Young Lords in El Barrio is a new public art project featuring photographs by renowned photographer, Hiram Maristany ~ a founding member of the Young Lords and their official photographer. Follow along as we take the walking tour, map in hand to view 10 large-scale images across five locations in El Barrio.

Beginning on East 99th Street

Mapping Resistance: The Young Lords in El Barrio ~ Images by Hiram Maristany. This image located on 99th Street, just west of Second Avenue, on the east side wall of PS 109

The Young Lords New York were a revolutionary group of Puerto Rican activists inspired by the Black Panthers, who organized for social justice in El Barrio in the late 1960s to the early 1970s. They organized around issues of political liberation and core community concerns such as health, food, education and housing. The image above is entitled March to Free the Panther 21 taken by Hiram Maristany in 1969. It has been installed on the side of PS 109 (215 East 99th Street), an abandoned school transformed into an affordable housing complex of live/work space for local artists.

Moving east on 99th Street between First and Second Avenues, The first public campaign of the Young Lords became the Garbage Offensive, 1969 (two large images below). While wealthier communities had regular trash pickup, East Harlem and other poor communities of color throughout the city were left with trash piling up.

Photos 1 & 2: The Garbage Offensive, 1969 by Hiram Maristany on view on 99th Street between First & Second Avenues

In protest, the Young Lords confronted the local NYC Sanitation depot ~ 111th Street at Third Avenue, and together with the community, they swept the garbage into the middle of the street, forming a barricade that halted traffic.

Photo 1: The Garbage Offensive, 1969 by Hiram Maristany on view on 99th Street between First and Second Avenue

They set the barricade on fire, forcing the police and fire department to intervene, and they mobilized the press to document the event.

Photo 2: the Garbage Offensive, 1969 by Hiram Maristany on view on 99th Street between First and Second Avenues

111th Street

111th Street at Second Avenue ~ Machito Square

Continuing on to 111th Street, corner of Second Avenue, a large-format image of the Garbage Offensive is on view on the wall of Experts Knights Collision.

111th Street, corner of 3rd Avenue on the wall of Experts Knights Collision ~ Image of The Garbage Offensive

Lexington Avenue at 111th Street (below) is a corner filled with history. In the image below, to the right, sit the 1st Spanish United Methodist Church ~ briefly occupied by the Young Lords in 1969 and 1970. The historic church is currently on the back-burner of NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission, with continuing discussion about the merit of historic cultural significance as it pertains to the Young Lords.

Sitting in the shadow of the Monument Art Project image of Nuyorican writer, Nicholasa Mohr, and directly across the street from ‘The People’s Church’ ~ Mapping Resistance installation

Below is a closeup of the image of Young Lords marching to the Bronx in support of members of the Black Panther Party, 1967.

Image of member of The Young Lords marching to the Bronx to support members of the Black Panther Party, 1967 ~ Photo credit: Hiram Maristany

We can’t leave this corner without posting the image below of Nuyorican writer, Nicholasa Mohr, on the side of the school located on the corner of Lexington Avenue and 111th Street, as part of the Monument Art Project in 2015.

Nuyorican writer Nicholasa Mohr ~ part of Monument Art Project

112th Street

The largest portion of the installation is located on Madison Avenue at 112th Street

The largest of the Mapping Resistance installations is location on Madison Avenue at 112th Street (above), on the fence of an empty lot where permits were recently filed to build a fifteen-story, mixed-use building.

Hiram Maristany: Take Over of the TB Testing Truck, 1970 on view at 112th Street & Madison Avenue

Many of the images at this site relate to the Young Lords seizing a T B Truck in 1970. The underutilized truck, was only open part-time, not serving the community. The mobile unit was seized at 116th street and set up across the street from the Young Lords Headquarters on Madison Avenue at 111th Street. The technicians assigned to that mobil unit continued to take X-rays.

When the Young Lords were done, the mobile unit extended its days and hours to 9am to 9pm every weekday.

Mapping Resistance at Madison Avenue and 111th Street

Below is a wonderfully thought out walking map, with the installations set to give those taking the walking tour a nice slice of El Barrio.

Mapping Resistance: The Young Lords in El Barrio, photographs by Hiram Maristany, commemorating the activist history of the Young Lords, was organized by artist Miguel Luciano, with support from the Surdna FoundationA Blade of Grass and El Museo del Barrio. The installation will be on view through September 30, 2019. Information on the images at each site, in English and Spanish.

The window of Hunter East Harlem Gallery during its exhibition, Anchor ~ photographs by Hiram Maristany

Related programming including tours, to be announced. Take a look back at 50 years of photographs taken by the photographer, Hiram Maristany, of his home in el Barrio at the exhibition, Anchor, which was on view at Hunter East Harlem Gallery in 2015.

Don’t get lost, get a map of East Harlem (post cards of the East Harlem Map will be sold at Amuse Bouche in La Marqueta beginning June 1st)

Latinx: The Future is Now series…

This looks awesome. Can’t wait to see some of the publications that come out of this!


Announcing a New Series—Latinx: The Future is Now

Latinx: The Future Is Now is a new interdisciplinary series devoted to the evolving field of Latina/o/x studies, including Central American, Afro-Latinx, and Asian-Latinx studies. Situated at the nexus of cultural, performance, historical, food, environmental, and textual studies, the series will focus on ways in which the racial, cultural, and social formations of historical Latinx communities can engage and enhance scholarship across geographies and nationalities. The series editors invite projects that consider the multiple queer and gender-fluid possibilities that are embodied in the “x”; projects that have a feminist critique of patriarchy at the center of their intellectual work; projects that deploy a relational approach to ethnic and national groups; and projects that address the overlapping dynamics of gender, race, sexual, and national identities.

Submissions or queries may be directed to the series editors, Nicole Guidotti-Hernandez, ngh24@austin.utexas.edu and Lorgia Garcia-Peña, garciapena@fas.harvard.edu in addition to Senior Acquisitions Editor, Kerry Webb, kwebb@utpress.utexas.edu.

Forthcoming books in the series will be listed here as they are published: https://utpress.utexas.edu/books/series/latinx-future-now.

# # #

Dr. Nicole M. Guidotti-Hernández is Associate Professor of American Studies and Mexican American and Latina/o Studies. She is an expert in Borderlands History after 1846, Transnational Feminist Methodologies, Latinx Studies, and Popular Culture and Immigration. As a public intellectual, Dr. Guidotti-Hernández has written numerous articles for the feminist magazine Ms. and the feminist blog The Feminist Wire, covering such topics as immigration, reproductive rights, and the Dream act. She also sits on the national advisory council for the Ms. and is currently on the national advisory council for Freedom University in Athens, Georgia.

Dr. Lorgia Garcia-Peña is the Roy G. Clouse Associate Professor of Latinx Studies at Harvard University. She is the author of  award-winning book The Borders of Dominicanidad and the co-founder of Freedom University Georgia, a modern-day freedom school created to support undocumented students.

El Peso Hero Confronts Immigration Detention Facilities in Latest Comic Book

A new announcement from Rio Bravo Comics, LLC, which was shared with media earlier this month:

DALLAS — Rio Bravo Comics released an unprecedented story featuring the border hero, El Peso Hero. There have been unprecedented surges of unaccompanied children migrating to the U.S. without a parent or legal guardian. These unaccompanied minors held in detention facilities have skyrocketed, and large number of children are teenagers from Central America who came to the United States as unaccompanied minors without their parents. The teens are mostly being held in a system of more than 100 shelters, with a heavy concentration along the U.S.-Mexico border. Many minors are also being held in facilities with long histories of alleged abuse, sexual violence, or neglect.

In the latest book El Peso Hero: Borderland, El Peso Hero joins a group of refugees as they go through the registration process at a detention facility located near the border at Carrizo Springs, Texas. El Peso Hero is on a mission to rescue and free the children from cruel captivity. The story features for the first time every in a sequential comic book narrative the realities of unaccompanied children in detention facilities.

El Peso Hero: Borderland is available worldwide, and the list of comics for the highly popular franchise now includes new El Peso Hero stories, only from Rio Bravo Comics. El Peso Hero: Borderland is the ninth book in our series and the exciting second book of the El Peso Hero Border Stories series. The new book is currently be sold exclusively through riobravocomics.com.

The company’s first publication was EL PESO HERO #1. Created by Hector Rodriguez, El Peso Hero is a comic book heavily influenced by the modern-day challenges people from both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border face. The main story is centered on El Peso Hero, a rogue hero who is standing up against Mexico’s cartels, corrupt officials and human traffickers.

El Peso Hero has been one the most internationally talked about Latino superhero in decades. With more focus on modern social issues such as immigration, human trafficking, and institutional corruption, El Peso Hero has garnered attention and praise from the Latino community, and has been featured on American Way Magazine, Univision, CNN, Telemundo, Fusion, CBS, NBC and countless of other media sites worldwide.

For more information on El Peso Hero, please visit the official website or Rio Bravo Comics, LLC.

Historic Mexican & Mexican American Press

Looking to do some research? Check out this new digital collection being put forth by the University of Arizona:

The Historic Mexican and Mexican American Press collection documents and showcases historic Mexican and Mexican American publications published in Tucson, El Paso, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Sonora, Mexico from the mid-1800s to the 1970s.


Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Is Getting Her Own Comic Book

This has made its way around the interwebz by now, but just in case:  Sam Stone for cbr.com reports: https://www.cbr.com/alexandria-ocasio-cortez-comic-book/?fbclid=IwAR2lrhT3kFx3QfSEx95zgX66tyo0tE3KvJDUHbMOUsz1RHP23xH9pF5HXJQ

In office for less than two months, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is already making her presence felt throughout Washington, D.C. Now, she will star in her own comic book.

Devil’s Due Comics has announced Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the Freshman Force, a one-shot special commemorative issue, will be released on May 15. Featuring an all-star lineup of creators, including Jill Thompson (Scary Godmother) and Jose Garibaldi (The LEGO Movie 2), the issue will feature an anthology of short stories as the Congresswoman takes on the GOP in heroic, satirical adventures. The variant cover illustrated by Tim Seeley (Hack/Slash) is below:


“It’s no secret that AOC has become the unofficial leader of the new school, and has sparked life back into Washington and that’s reflected in the enthusiasm on display by the men and women contributing to this project,” Devil’s Due Publisher Josh Blaylock observed. “While we all don’t agree on everything, we share a common excitement for the breath of fresh air the new Congress brings. I hope this is as much a cathartic release for readers as it has been for us creators.”

A portion of the proceeds will go to support the USO and RaicesTexas.org, a nonprofit organization committed to providing legal services to immigrant families and refugees.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the Freshman Force by Jill Thompson, Dean Haspiel, Jose Garibaldi and more is scheduled to go on sale on May 15 from Devil’s Due Comics.

Writer Sandra Cisneros Is Documenting Unheard NC Voices

Check out the article (with an audio interview!) for WUNC here: http://www.wunc.org/post/writer-sandra-cisneros-documenting-unheard-nc-voices?fbclid=IwAR1fzixUw06NP_OeMhFsYG_AfrqqxCkim7V-wL77YqTDwkWgu_p5KMY9TlE


Sandra Cisneros is best known as the author behind the literary classic “The House on Mango Street,” a book that has been translated into over twenty languages. She has penned poetry, short stories, novels and essays. These days, beyond writing, the acclaimed author is spending a lot of time listening.

Cisneros is using her Ford Foundation’s Art of Change Fellowship to conduct an extensive project collecting the stories of undocumented people and those who hire, harbor or work alongside them, including residents of rural eastern North Carolina.

Host Frank Stasio speaks with Cisneros about her ongoing work and about her upcoming appearance at the North Carolina Book Festival on Saturday, Feb. 23 at 7 p.m. at CAM Raleigh.


On why she spent time listening to undocumented people in North Carolina: 
I got a fellowship from the Ford Foundation called an Art of Change Award. It is given to choreographers, playwrights, poets, all kinds of creative people, and it was for us to create a project on democracy. And I felt that everyone is talking about the issue of immigration, but the immigrants themselves can’t speak. So I felt, as a dual citizen of both Mexico and the United States, that I’m in a position of privilege, and I want to serve as a bridge during times when communities are afraid of one another. So I thought the best thing to do is to buy some recording equipment and listen to those who are being discussed but who never get to speak themselves.

On storytelling as an act of survival:
Sometimes when we don’t tell the story, it lodges in our heart like a invading grain of sand. And, you know, the oyster puts layers of pearl on top of that invading grain in order to survive. And stories are like that too. They lodge inside our hearts.  And if we aren’t able to talk about them, they get infected and can kill us. And I found that people tell stories, and each time they tell them they tell them in a different way to understand the event, to understand themselves, to survive the event.

I want to do the hard work this year now of taking all these interviews and weaving them together into a chorus of voices. Because just the act of telling you a story allows them to heal in a way. One of the participants said: I feel so much better telling you my story. I feel as if me desahogué, which means “I un-drowned.” And that idea that we carry the sea inside us and that sometimes when we’re telling a story that’s too powerful it comes out of our eyes; That the sea poured forth when she told me her story. It helped her to “un-drown.” I love that idea.

On how she’s been affected by the stories she’s heard:
I think that listening to everyone that I’m listening to has made me realize how grateful I am for what I have … [And] it makes me reassess what I want. It makes you much more humble to admire the strength of people for living with so little … It gives you courage. So listening to the students, the dreamers, the people who start their own business, people who started from zero, people who’ve had to leave children behind makes me think: What have I got to complain about? Look at the courage and strength of these citizens.