Writer Crush: Anupama Pilbrow on Sandra Cisneros

Mexican-American poet Sandra Cisneros

ANUPAMA PILBORW is the co-editor at The Suburban Review, and the Editor-in-Chief of Vol. 7 Writers of Colour. Her own writing focuses on experiences of racial and ethnic marginalisation, and she recently received the Dinny O’Hearn Fellowship for her poetry manuscript ‘the ravage space’, a work dealing with Asian diasporic experience in Australia.


Have you seen this woman?
I am considered harmless.
Armed and dangerous.
But only to me.


—‘The Heart Rounds Up the Usual Suspects’, Loose Woman


Forgot, forgotten, forget.
Past tense and no regrets.


—‘I Am So in Love I Grow a New Hymen’, Loose Woman


So, I’m supposed to write about a writer whose writing I’m crushing on, but me and Sandra go back 10 years, and she’s more an old flame I’ve been nursing than a new crush. I’m sorry to break format a bit this week, but the best passions maintain that crush and gush and obsession so… I’m kind of still on topic! I like Frank Sinatra for love songs, and he says in one, ‘The world will pardon my mush, ‘cause I have got a crush, my baby, on you’ and this is a little bit how I feel about Sandra. I’ve been crushing on her since the moment we met in The House on Mango Street. Please pardon the mush.


I was too young to read The House on Mango Street when I first read it. It’s short, and Deborah told us it was good and her niece had read it for school and it says on the back that it is a ‘novel of a young girl growing up in the Latino section of Chicago’, but it is not a children’s book. Maybe it is, though, but I understand it better now. I read books for emotion, and when I was 12 and I first read it, I missed a lot of the emotion. The thing is, how are you supposed to read books about desolation and the death of your grandparents, and growing up and kissing and love and knowing your mother and really wanting things, before any of that has really, really happened to you?


What I love about Sandra is that she writes to women and for women and isn’t embarrassed and isn’t particularly kind. In the poem
‘Down There’ in her collection Loose Woman, she writes:



I want to talk at length about Men-

struation. Or my period.

Or the rag as you so lovingly put it.

All right then.


I’d like to mention my rag time.


Gelatinous. Steamy

and lovely to the light to look at

like a good glass of burgundy.


and later, ‘If blood is thicker than water, then/menstruation is thicker than brother-/hood.’ She writes like it is some unalterable fact, that doesn’t need to be universalized because it is known by women already. Sandra writes like a radio presenter who knows everything—everything except for the fact that she knows everything. She broadcasts, but without a sense of entitlement to the role of ‘broadcaster’. In The House on Mango Street, Esperanza says, ‘Nenny is too young to be my best friend. She’s just my sister and that was not my fault. You don’t pick your sisters, you just get them and sometimes they come like Nenny.’


What I love about Sandra is that the white women are the others in her language. She writes, ‘I can’t imagine that goofy white woman/with you. Her pink skin on your dark’ (‘Perras’, in Loose Woman). She blends ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ language, she blends English and Spanish. Her writing is sexed, brown, gendered and victorious. I love that.


I keep The House on Mango Street on my bookshelf in a place that I look at almost every day. One day six months ago I walked into a bookstore in the city and went straight to the poetry section like I like to do, and saw Loose Woman on the shelf and I bought it straight away because I guess I trusted Sandra. She didn’t disappoint. Hey, so I’ve got a crush Sandra Cisneros, I’ve had a crush on her for some time.