Mexican-American writer Sandra Cisneros, best known for her coming-of-age novel The House on Mango Street, has been named winner of the 2019 PEN/Nabokov Award for Achievement in International Literature.
The 64-year-old poet, essayist and novelist burst onto the literary scene in 1984 with Mango Street, which traced the struggles of a teenage Latina growing up in Cisneros’ hometown of Chicago. It made her one of the cornerstones of the Chicana literary movement emerging in that era. Cisneros moved to San Antonio shortly after Mango Street was published and lived there for almost 30 years.
“She is regarded as one of the most significant modern-day contributors to Chicano literature, often exploring the theme of dual identity in Mexican and Anglo-American cultures,” PEN America said in a statement. Judges Alexander Chee, Edwidge Danticat and Valeria Luiselli quoted Cisneros as saying that she writes because “the world we live in is a house on fire and the people we love are burning.”
“In a formidable and awe-inspiring body of work, which includes fiction, memoir and poetry, Cisneros brings us astounding and lyrical voices from burning, maligned, devastated as well as reassembled houses and nations,” they said in a statement. “It’s hard to imagine navigating our world today without her stories and her voice guiding us toward much-needed reclamation and endurance.”
“Cisneros has not only changed the world of international literature, she has expanded American literature to include the Americas beyond the United States, inspiring a new era of Latinx writers we see emerging today, many of whom are shortlisted for our book awards,” said Nadxieli Nieto, program director of the PEN America Literary Awards.
The award, which comes with a $50,000 prize, will be presented to Cisneros on Feb. 26 in New York. Also to be recognized at the PEN America ceremony are achievements in drama, sports writing and editing.