Whatever book you’re excited about, that’s your prescription.-Sandra Cisneros
This year I had the best Halloween and Día de los Muertos ever. Not only did I see Sandra Cisneros discuss and sign her book A House of My Own at the Los Angeles Central Library, but I also got to see her ofrenda dedicated to her mother, Elvira Cordero, at the Museum of Latin American Art (MOLAA).
In her conversation with Reyna Grande at the library, Sandra really kept the audience engaged with her sense of humor and anecdotes. She said she ‘was such a pendeja’ when she was younger, and how difficult it is for Chicano literature to be accepted in the United States and Mexico. She also called books “prescriptions,” because one book that helps and inspires one person might not do the same for the next. After the discussion, and as I went for my turn to have my book signed, I didn’t know what to say. I was standing in line with about 100 people, and she probably wanted to rush back to her hotel for a bubble bath. I just said thank you, and she told me she liked my vintage cat eye glasses.
I went to the MOLAA event with Roy Martinez, the talented artist behind Lambe Culo. The event was sold out, but he had an extra ticket. Since the reading and ofrenda exhibit fell on Halloween, and because we wanted Sandra to notice us, we decided to dress up. Roy went as the punk version of Frida Kahlo, complete with a dog collar, rebozo, and Frida’s signature hair flowers. I dressed as bruja Selena, with a black bustier with cat ears on the chichis, and leggings. We were the only ones dressed up, except for a Frida Kahlo baby and one person who had her face painted.
Luckily, we found seats in the front row, and decided to wait until the 100+ line of Sandra fans died down to get our books signed. We watched and saw how everyone was having these little moments with Sandra. They cried, laughed, and took selfies. While we were waiting, we talked about what we would say to Sandra:
” Do you think you’ll faint?”
“I won’t say anything, I’m bad at small talk.”
“La invitamos a los tacos.”
When we finally met her, she smiled and told us we looked cute in our costumes, and that she was looking at us as we were sitting in the front row, waiting for the book signing line to die down. I finally told her that she was the reason I continue writing, even when I felt I wasn’t good enough. I had her sign my copy of Caramelo, because every time I open that book, I am always inspired to write, even if it’s just a paragraph or a line of memory. One could say that it is a multigenerational story that follows the characters from Chicago, Mexico City, and Texas, but it is so much more than that. Celaya, the main character,gets teased by her brothers, discovers her father’s infidelity, gets teased for not being Mexican enough, and learns why her Awful Grandmother is so awful. Caramelo taught me that navigating two cultures is a story worth telling, gave me new appreciation for rebozos, and was the reason why I chowed down on panuchos at Cafe de Tacuba in Mexico City this summer. Sandra taught me that a brown woman’s voice has value, and no matter how isolated you may feel, there is probably someone out there who shares your story.