In just about ninety pages-illustrated like in a children’s book-Sandra Cisneros, author of The House on Mango Street, reflects on the loss of a beloved one, the perseverance of love and our relationship with nature in her latest book ¿Han visto a María? (Have you seen Marie? Vintage Español-$21.00)
Illustrated books are not just for children, as we soon learn from Cisneros, for¿ Han visto a María? is really a fable for adults. Adorned with illustrations by Chicana artist Ester Hernandez, the book is an insightful tale about how even after death, the love of the departed will always be with us.
The story is told by a 53 year old woman who has just lost her mother and feels “like a glove left at the bus station.” She is visited by her friend Rosalind who brings along a cat named María. The feline soon runs away and immediately the two women begin to search for María.
Aided by Hernandez’ colorful illustrations that bring to life the stage where the story happens, Cisneros takes us through the streets of the King William’s neighborhood in San Antonio, Texas, made up of a number of historic homes as colorful and diverse as the people who live in the area, like Reverend Chavana, who promised to pray for the cat, or cowboy David who offered to go looking for her by the river on his horse.
Beyond the historic streets and “big houses like wedding cakes” of King William Street, the two women arrive at the footbridge O. Henry and suddenly stop to look at the sky and begin talking to the squirrels, the dogs and the cats. The narrator then goes to the river and asks: “have you seen María?” From this moment on, she begins her own journey towards finding herself and healing her pain.
As we later learn in the book’s epilogue, Cisneros wrote this book while she was going through a difficult period of her life, after the death of her mother and in a situation similar to the one described in ¿Han visto a María? “Even sadness has its place in the universe,” explains the author before she concludes that “love never dies…we keep getting and giving love after death.”
Cisneros’ previous work has been recognized for her ability to tell stories that reflect the cultural hybridity of Latinos living in the United States and the sense of belonging to two cultures. She does it again in ¿Han visto a María?, this time highlighting how these two cultures collide, in Cisneros’ own words, “give rise to something new.” The result is a message of renewal.
About the author
Sandra Cisneros is one of the most renowned Chicana writers. She received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and in 1985 was presented with the American Book Award for The House on Mango Street. Cisneros is the founder of two organizations that support writers. Her books have been translated into more than 20 languages. She lives in San Antonio, TX.