(This story originally appeared in Vivala)
At first, Sandra Cisneros didn’t even realize she was slowly writing a book. Delivering speeches was a nerve-wracking experience for the author of The House on Mango Street, so she prepared them beforehand for three decades. These speeches, as well as other stories rooted from her university and high school lectures, plus her journals and anthologies, make up A House of My Own.
The memoir, released on Oct. 6, is a rich compilation of true stories and photos from the beloved Mexican American author’s life and career. In the introduction, Cisneros explains that the book is a way to understand her life over three decades — from 1984 to 2014 to be exact.
“We don’t always have that much clarity about ourselves when we’re younger. Getting older, you get closer to who you are,” the 60-year-old says. “Your writing is also an archery lesson — you get closer to the bulls eye of who you are each year.”
A House of My Own takes readers to many places Cisneros has traveled, from Chiapas, Mexico to Hydra, one of the Saronic Islands of Greece and where she finished writing The House on Mango Street.
“We rented rooms in funky pensions and did the things writers do on Greek islands – sit under the awnings of outdoor cafés scribbling in journals, eating calamari, and making friends with the town’s outrageous citizens,” Cisneros writes of herself and a friend named Ifigenia, a poet of Greek descent.
Cisneros says in the book that she inherited her love of wandering from her father.
“It wakes you up to paying attention and living in the present moment. Traveling helps you to see yourself better,” she said. “Your whole body is paying attention – to the door knob handle, the sound of your shoes.”
Early last Friday, Cisneros says she was walking down a cobblestone street in central Mexico, where she currently lives.
“I loved how the cobblestones felt on the soles of my shoes and I hear the sound and imagine what it must have been like to have horses coming down these streets,” she says softly. “I felt very happy.”
A House of My Own helped Cisneros realize many advantages of growing older. You get to know yourself better, she said, and won’t give your time away to just anyone.
“Your time is the most valuable thing you have,” she says.
Cisneros hopes A House of My Own can deliver a particular message to her readers.
“I hope women, and especially women of color, will realize that living a life where you make your decisions has its price. It has its price but it ultimately it makes you a happier human being,” she says.
“I really want them, especially Latinas, to take control of their own lives. We’re so lost into being what our family wants or what church wants. I really want women, especially Latinas, to claim their own destiny. In order to do that, you have to have your own money, honey! And you have to have control of your fertility.”
As for her life currently, Cisneros described it as exuberant – very joyous and spirit-filled.
“I feel like every year I’m happier and happier because I feel as if everything that I worked towards is coming to fruition,” she says. “I feel very happy and content… I think everyone should listen to their heart. I feel like very few people do.”