Writer Sandra Cisneros has a way with words. She has the beautifully unique gift of being able to express herself with such poignancy. Her words have the ability to resonate for a lifetime. Her speech while accepting the 2019 PEN America Literary Awards is one that is timeless and yet timely.
As we reported last month, Cisneros said she would give her $50,000 award money to her assistants for them to buy a house in Mexico. But it is her acceptance speech that brings her words, her work, and her message in full circle. The author received her distinguished award on Feb. 28 in New York City, but it is only now that we are hearing her words from that podium.
In her speech, Cisneros dedicated her award to a slew of people, but it wasn’t so much as who they were, but how she did so.
“I dedicate this award to the poets, our prophets in the era of lies, and to the truth-seekers, the journalists and writers who brave censorship, dismissal, defamation, detention, torture, death, for they are our light in the time of darkness,” she began.
She also dedicated her award to her family that has enriched her storytelling for decades.
“I dedicate this award to my mother Elivira Cordero, whose hunger for art and books and music allowed me to be the artist she wished she could’ve become. I dedicate this award to my immigrant father, whose longing for home taught us to love and know our own story. I dedicate this award to my nieces and nephews who know who they are, who honor their ancestors and are proud to say they are Mexican.”
Cisneros went on to speak about the asylum seekers and countless migrants who are seeking a home and a better life.
“I dedicate this award to all divided by borders, the mothers and fathers punished for seeking asylum, for the children traumatized by separation. For the North Carolina woman Cruz who lost her son twice, once to deportation, and then again to suicide. For the undocumented globally, for the stories they carry inside them, a burden too big for one body to contain.”
Hear her entire speech below.