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Cisneros delivers convo in pajamas

<rd-winning American author Sandra Cisneros, famous for her acclaimed first novel The House on Mango Street – which she wrote just out of undergraduate studies – enthusiastically delivered a convocation speech about writing, death, and spiritual health, all while wearing her brand new blue pajamas. Growing up in a very poor Chicago family, Cisneros recounted the “healthy lies” her father told in order to enroll her into Catholic schools, the artistic passion of her mother, and living as the only daughter in a household of seven children. After extending hugely energetic invitations to her audience about her upcoming birthday parties, she explained the motivation behind her founding of the Macondo Foundation, a writing workshop dedicated towards those from marginalized and poorer communities, all of whom Cisneros hopes to encourage the telling of their stories.

Reading an excerpt from her own work, “Writing in my Pajamas,” concerning the death of her father, Cisneros emphasized the true power of words and language, and how they are essential parts of one’s inherent nature. Describing her father as her only connection to Spanish, which she referred to as her other language, she recounted her feelings during her father’s final days in his struggle against cancer, recalling how the words he had taught her helped tremendously in her writing. Through learning his language, she became more acquainted with Hispanic culture and customs, ultimately adding vivid color and substance to her descriptions in her writing. His death moved her to focus not on the inevitable loss always associated with death, but rather on “what no one discusses – that is, the inevitable gain,” which she referred to as having the dead as “spiritual allies.” These forms remain in contact with their loved ones who still live, offering a comfort and company that could only be detected on a spiritual level. Such a belief, she reinforced, is commonly shared by many Hispanic communities, mentioning events such as the Mexican Day of the Dead.

Cisneros mentioned that this strong belief in spiritual existence is constantly overshadowed today by misinterpretation: that wronged education has taught society to call it superstition. She explained the crucial element of her spiritual allies: how her belief in them allowed her to “use the energy of grief associated with death to enter a higher level of spiritual understanding.” She also told the audience that her latest project was a picture book for adults with an essay on mourning serving as an afterword.

The second excerpt Cisneros read was from an essay about her mother and how she decided to become a writer based on her mother’s artistic passion. She recalled how when she was young, her mother would take her along with her siblings to museums, libraries and exhibitions.

“Initially it seemed it was all for the benefit for her children, but actually it was all for her,” she recounted.
Cisneros discussed the strong influence art had over the formation of her mother’s character, which ultimately affected her own views. Through her mother’s artistic perception she stated that, “art is essential; it is food for your heart, and is essential for the grieving, for if it is not made, one will get ill.”

She concluded the convocation by segueing into the importance of writing. Mentioning that when thinking of publication as an end result, Cisneros lamented how many do not “write from the heart”, but instead modify their words and phrases to reflect the politically correct, or the socially sensitive. She described how the “true liberation of writing” is composing something without intending for anyone to read it.

Cisneros said it runs parallel to “writing something that only you, and no one else can write,” for writing from such a perspective is the only way to make the writing a personalized gift. She closed her talk by stating her two rules for writing: that one’s story should tell the truth about how one feels or thinks, and that it should not hurt anyone.

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