Sandra Cisneros in Person, Complete With Reboso, as in Her Novel "Caramelo"

So I’ve been swamped with end-of-the-semester work lately, with no time to stop and think or write, but this week at Penn State we’ve had Sandra Cisneros as a Writer-in-Residence, and she’s been fantastic—gracious, kind, and inspiring. On Monday night she gave a talk to a huge audience of students at the State Theater, and answered all their questions, even the baffling or difficult, like one from the kid who stepped up to the microphone and asked her, “I’m about to graduate and I’m not sure what to do with my life. Should I become a writer like you?” We had a reception for her at my home on Tuesday night, and I got a chance to talk with her. We’d both spent time at the fabulous Paisano Ranch near Austin, Texas on writing fellowships there, and she’s living in San Miguel de Allende in Mexico now, where I once had to run nearly a mile to catch a train that had already left the station, with my luggage aboard (and me with a splitting headache from a tequila hangover, to boot). I love her novel Caramelo (2002), and have taught it before. She described its narrative technique through a metaphor of weaving the various strands of colored thread in a caramelo-colored reboso (a type of Mexican shawl) that is a centerpiece of the novel. (A fan of hers also gifted her a reboso at the beginning of the event, which was sweet.) She also lives in San Antonio, which is close to my heart, the Texas Hill Country locale where I grew up. She’s one of the great writers from our Southwest, my favorite region of all.

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