Sandra Cisneros is a poet, essayist, novelist, and short story writer. She was born on December 20, 1954, in Chicago, Illinois, the only daughter of seven children. Her parents were both born in Mexico. She grew up speaking Spanish with her father and English with her mother. Her family frequently traveled between Chicago and Mexico City, where her father’s family still lived. Her family’s numerous moves made it hard for Cisneros to make friends. Being split between two cultures and her feelings of loneliness influenced her later writing. Because library cards were mandatory in her family, Cisneros found escape by reading books and writing poetry.

Cisneros attended high school at Chicago’s Josephinum Academy of the Sacred Heart, a private Catholic school for girls. While there, she worked on her high school literary magazine and eventually became its editor.

She attended Loyola University of Chicago, graduating in 1976 with a Bachelor of Arts in English. For post-graduate studies, she attended the prestigious University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop, graduating in 1978 with an M.F.A. in Creative Writing. After college, she moved back to Chicago and became a teacher and counselor at Latino Youth Alternative High School. In her spare time, she wrote poetry, publishing her first collection Bad Boys in 1980.

In 1982, Cisneros was awarded a fellowship by the National Endowment for the Arts. With money from the award, she traveled to Europe, where she wrote her first novel, the semi-autobiographical The House on Mango Street. First published in 1984, the novel tells the coming-of-age story of Esperanza, a Mexican-American girl living in a poor, racially segregated neighborhood in Chicago. The book has sold over 6 million copies and has been translated into over 20 languages. It won many awards and accolades, including the American Book Award.

Cisneros moved to San Antonio, Texas, in 1984. For 25 years, she lived in the historic King William district, where she caused controversy by painting her house purple. Seguin, Texas--the setting of "Woman Hollering Creek"--is a little over 30 miles east of San Antonio.

Cisneros published “Woman Hollering Creek” in 1991, as part of her first collection of short stories, Woman Hollering Creek and Other Stories. The stories in the collection focus on themes of Mexican-American girls and women and their roles in society, including their relationships with men and with other women. The collection has three sections. The first focuses on childhood, the second on adolescence, and the third on adulthood.

In 2016, President Obama awarded Cisneros the National Medal of Arts “for enriching the American narrative.” At first, she did not plan to travel to Washington, DC, to accept the award. But then she had a realization: “This is not about me—this is bigger. I needed to go to represent everyone that I represent,” she said.