Sandra Cisneros was born in Chicago in 1954, to a Mexican father and a Chicana mother; she has six brothers and is the only daughter in the family. She moved frequently during her childhood and visited Mexico often, to visit her paternal grandmother. Like Esperanza, the main character in The House on Mango Street, Cisneros recalls these moves as painful experiences: "'Because we moved so much, and always in neighborhoods that appeared like France after World War II--empty lots and burned-out-buildings--I retreated inside myself'" (Sagel 74).
In the introduction to Alfred A. Knopf's 1994, ten-year anniversary reprinting of her House on Mango Street, Sandra Cisneros recalls what initially inspired the now internationally acclaimed novel. As a graduate student in the University of Iowa Writers Workshop, Cisneros felt alienated by discussion of Gaston Bachelard's Poetics of Space. She says, "What was this guy talking about when he mentioned the familiar and comforting 'house of memory'? It was obvious he never had to clean one or pay the landlord rent for one like ours" (xiii-xiv).
Chicago native Ana Castillo began to write as a young activist in the 1970s, using her poetry as a form of a social protest; as she says, "Being of Mexican background, being Indian-looking, being a female, coming from a working-class background, and then becoming politicized in high school, that was my direction . . . I was a Chicana protest poet, a complete renegade--and I continue to write that way" (Baker 59).