Acclaimed writer Sandra Cisneros is visiting Salt Lake City Tuesday, April 25, thanks to the University of Utah Tanner Humanities Center’s Artists in Residence program.
Cisneros is a poet, novelist and essayist who has won many national awards, including the National Medal of Arts in 2016, according to the National Endowment for the Arts. Her first and most successful book, “The House on Mango Street,” is partly based on her own life experience of growing up in a poor and racially divided area of Chicago. It has been translated into more than 20 languages and sold more than 5 million copies.
Cisneros, who spoke with the Deseret News by telephone, said that she hopes her work and her visit will reach a wide and diverse spectrum of people.
“Every writer always hopes that people most unlike yourself will feel the humanity of the characters, that they will feel they have something in common. That’s what literature does, it connects people,” she said.
Cisneros believes that the world would be a much better place if people read more books about people who are different than themselves.
“I think there would be less wars, we’d be able to talk to each other, navigate our fear. The nation is divided with fear. Creating art is a spiritual act. It’s not just for entertainment. It can help us to be more magnanimous, more generous, more human,” she said.
Her visit will consist of a speaking engagement at the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center, moderated by KUER’s Doug Fabrizio, as well as a visit to Mountain View Elementary, where a fifth-grade class has been reading “The House on Mango Street.”
“When I read the book I found it very engaging from a personal standpoint. Then I read it again as a teacher and liked it even more because I found so many good teaching moments,” said Jennifer Carver, the teacher of the class Cisneros will be visiting.
According to Carver, the book does a good job of appealing to readers of all levels. She said she has been “blown away” by the insights that her more advanced readers have been able to get out of the book. Yet her students who struggle with reading have also been very engaged just because the story is so good, she told the Deseret News in an interview.
“It reaches the entire spectrum of ability in my classroom,” she said.
Bob Goldberg, director of the Tanner Humanities Center, echoed that sentiment.
“It appeals to a diversity of audiences and a diversity of reading levels,” he said.
Although much of Cisneros’ work focuses on the Latino-American experience, Goldberg said that he would encourage people of all backgrounds to participate in the event.
“What we’ve forgotten in this country is a common humanity. We’re so focused on who we are that we forget that we are all part of the same human family. It’s important to bring in people who are different than us, who can see the world differently and then be open to learning something from them,” he said.
The tickets for “An Evening With Sandra Cisneros” are all sold out but the entire event will be recorded and broadcast on KUER the next morning, April 26, at 9 a.m.
If you go
What: "An Evening with Sandra Cisneros," hosted by KUER's Doug Fabrizio
When: April 25, 7:30 p.m., KUER radio broadcast April 26, 9 a.m.
Where: Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center, 138 Broadway