Short Story Discovery: Eleven by Sandra Cisneros

Sandra Cisneros is a poet, short story writer, novelist, essayist, whose work explores the lives of the working-class.  Her numerous awards include NEA fellowships in both poetry and fiction, the Texas Medal of the Arts, a MacArthur Fellowship, several honorary doctorates and national and international book awards, including Chicago’s Fifth Star Award, the PEN Center USA Literary Award and the National Medal of the Arts, awarded to her by President Obama in 2016. Most recently, she received the Ford Foundation’s Art of Change Fellowship.

Her classic, coming-of-age novel, The House on Mango Street, has sold over six million copies, been translated into over twenty languages, and is required reading in elementary, high school, and universities across the nation.  

In addition to her writing, Cisneros has fostered the careers of many aspiring and emerging writers through two non-profits she founded: the Macondo Foundation and the Alfredo Cisneros del Moral Foundation. She is also the organizer of Los MacArturos, Latino MacArthur fellows who are community activists. Her literary papers are preserved in Texas at the Wittliff Collections at Texas State University. 

Sandra Cisneros is a dual citizen of the United States and Mexico, and earns her living by her pen.

What they don’t understand about birthdays and what they never tell you is that when you’re eleven, you’re also ten, and nine, and eight, and seven, and six, and five, and four, and three, and two, and one.

In Eleven by Sandra Cisneros, our narrator, Rachel, is shown through her thought that runs all over the place, strung together like the stream of consciousness of a child who still has that freedom to think free and wholeheartedly as she has not yet learned how in full adulthood, people keep a lid on emotions, because that's normal. It's learned

Even though Rachel possesses mature ideas like never truly being one age and being aware of other people's many ages, like her mother off to the side crying, Rachel is still restricted to the thoughts of a child with immature similes and metaphors such as comparing herself to a balloon and having pain in the head like when drinking milk too fast. 

Rachel represents a youthful time where you did not have to express audibly how you were unhappy or sad because of well-thought out reasons x, y, and z. Instead at a young age, you just cry. You pout. You throw things and scream. You wipe the snot off your nose and then look at yourself in the mirror and think you look positively psycho before screaming some more. 

At a young age, you don't understand sickness, growing old, diseases, life pressures--even menstrual headaches. Instead, the most pain you get is to your head by drinking milk too fast. 

Even at the end, Rachel's last thought of wishing she were one hundred and two is childish as it's her way of mentally running. She doesn't understand yet that to be a hundred and two, it's not done by wishing, but instead experiencing the pain, pleasure, agony, and all ugly red sweaters of the years in between. 

Eleven is a poignant way of understanding how we pretend in life through the eyes of a real and emotional young girl. She teaches us we don't lose the ages we go through, we acquire them.