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'Martita, I Remember You/Martita, Te Recuerdo': Sandra Cisneros' Homage to the Forever Friendships Of Youth

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Sandra Cisneros
Sandra Cisneros

In Sandra Cisneros’ latest book, Corina is living her life in Chicago when she finds a letter she’d long forgotten. This and other ephemera of bygone days when she was young, single and following her dreams to become a writer in Paris lead Corina to respond to her friend Martita through this epistolary work.

Highlights from the interview

On the origins of this latest story
The story is that back in the late '80s, early '90snineties, probably more like the early '90s, when Random House picked up my books and reissued them…I had the option of writing a book of short stories and this was one in the collection that was to be called eventually Woman Hollering Creek. And I handed it in, but my editor and my agent both agreed the story wasn't done. I could see that the story was simply the first part of this book, but it was a story I was very fond of, and I put it away. It's based on my own travels, but not when I was 20. I was practically 30… And so my money was locked into an account that I had stashed away, my funds in Greece, not a lot, but, you know, just so I could travel and then there was no way to get my money. And I didn't know about wiring. I was very naive about how to transfer money from one country to another. So I was on limited funds and everywhere I went, whether it was in Italy or, the former Yugoslavia, different places that I would meet women, they always took me in and there were many of them, you know, that I would meet in Spain or friends or wherever I went. And they were very kind to me and generous. And the women who took me in, unlike the men who took me in, because there were men who took me in also, didn't require anything in return for their kindness.

On including the Spanish translation by Liliana Valenzuela in this publication
It’s so important for this to be in Spanish because in real life Martita was from Buenos Aires. So, she was talking to me in Spanish and the story was always, since the beginning, it's always been in Spanish, even the title, even though I wrote it, it was always, I could hear Martita speaking Spanish and to have Liliana translate it back into the way I heard her in my head seemed right. I was very lucky that my publishing house, this time allowed the Spanish translation to be under one cover.

On the ways this book differs from her previous ones
I really feel the writing is so much stronger because this is like a bottle of wine that I put in the cellar for so many years and then brought out and reworked and worked and worked. And, you know, it's a lot of rewriting, as you know, the task of writing. But I wrote it 30 years ago, so to bring it back out, I feel I'm at the height of my literary powers here. So, I could do something that I had done as a young girl, you know. I had to have the poetry and the succinctness of The House on Mango Street. But when I experimented with a larger book like Caramelo, I could create this density of characters that I wasn't able to do when I was a young woman.

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Yvette Benavides can be reached at bookpublic@tpr.org.