September 27, 2016
Sandra Cisneros awarded National Medal of Arts
by Taylor Sperry
Last week, President Obama presented to author Sandra Cisneros—and eleven other artists, among them Morgan Freeman, Philip Glass, and Luis Valdez—a National Medal of Arts. The award is the highest given by the US government to artists and arts patrons, and recognizes outstanding contributions “to the excellence, growth, support, and availability of the arts in the United States.”
“The arts and humanities are in many ways reflective of our national soul,” Obama said at the ceremony. “They’re central to who we are as Americans, dreamers and storytellers and innovators and visionaries.”
Cisneros is the author of three books of poetry, a collection of stories, a children’s book, a memoir in essays, and two novels, and the winner of the Texas Medal of the Arts, a MacArthur fellowship, two NEA fellowships, and many other awards. She is best known for her novel The House on Mango Street, which was first published in 1984 and has since sold more than five million copies and been translated into more than twenty languages.
On the occasion of her selection for the award, Cisneros was interviewed by Rebecca Gross for NEA Arts magazine. “We’re living in such horrible time for people of color, immigrants, working-class people,” she said. “You can’t see clearly in times of fear. So I try to be of some use because when you witness or read intense hatred, it’s your obligation to try to right the planet. Otherwise, you’re part of the problem.”
Taylor Sperry is a former Melville House editor.