Book Review: A House of My Own: Stories from My Life by Sandra Cisneros


“I feel fortunate at least to open books and be invited to step in, if that book shelters me and keeps me warm, I know I’ve come home”.

“I’m fascinated with how those of us who live in multiple cultures and the regions in between are held under the spell of words spoken in the language of our childhood. After a loved one dies, your senses become oversensitized. Maybe that’s why I sometimes smell my father’s cologne in a room when no one else does. And why words once taken for granted suddenly take on new meanings”.

“When I speak Spanish, it’s as if I’m hearing my father again. It’s as if he lives in the language, and I become him”.

“Immigrants and exiles know this art of mental acrobatics for a lost home”.

“A House of My Own” is an amazing memoir which consists of a collection of various essays, interviews, articles written by Cisneros between 1984 and 2014.  The vignettes included in the book reflect her journey to find a sense of belonging and constitute the quest to find a place called home. All texts are accompanied by numerous black and white pictures which add to the richness of the reading experience.

This book depicts so many subjects. There are references to many writers that Sandra met in her life, the exploration of the world through travel while she was constantly short of money, the expectations towards women in certain cultures not only because of outside social norms but also expectations imposed by one’s family.

Sandra Cisneros is a Mexican – American writer born in Chicago into a family of six sons – her writing depicts slice of life moments common for many immigrants, people from mixed cultures, from working – class backgrounds which makes this book so relatable and so unique. It provides an interesting perspective on the meaning of belonging.

Reading this memoir, we travel the world with Sandra; we go to Chicago, the place of her birth, to Hydra in Greece, to Mexico where her dad was from and where her mum’s ancestors came originally from; we go to Sarajevo in the former Yugoslavia, we go to France, and Spain.

There are wonderfully evocative descriptions of the Mexican folklore, insightful reflections on women’s position in the society, especially when she is an immigrant from a working – class background.
The idea of coming from many different cultures, different to the ones that your parents came from and making connections through language, food, and traditions is portrayed in such a rich, multi-faceted manner.

The reflections on “otherness” are so beautifully nuanced and many readers surely would relate to the emotions and feelings expressed in this memoir.

There are many references to various interesting writers and important figures of culture including Ryszard Kapuscinski, Astor Piazzolla, Elena Poniatowska (a French- Mexican writer), Carlos Fuentes, Borges, Garcia Marquez, Marguerite Duras, Rosario Castellanos (a feminist Mexican writer who “used only emotions as a language” who was able “to listen to those who don’t speak”), Merce Rodoreda (a writer who wrote “about feelings of the characters so numbed by events”).

The main theme in this amazing collection of various vignettes is the nostalgia for a home, for a belonging, for a language of your parents that is no longer there when the loved ones are gone.

“Sometimes I was living in a borrowed house or guest room. Sometimes I convinced myself I was in love, but most of the time I lived alone in a space that wasn’t mine with bills that flared like small fires. That meant I passed through a lot of houses, loves, and typewriters, never quite finding the right one”.

Cisneros concludes: “And, I had a house of my own. This to me was power.”

“A House of My Own: Stories from My Life” by Sandra Cisneros is such a delightful literary treat. It is a wonderful book to read during these lazy spring and summer afternoons.

View “A House of My Own: Stories from My Life” on Amazon :

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