Ask a thousand booksellers what you should buy as a gift for the holidays and you’ll get a thousand different answers. There’s no single perfect gift. But Letizia, a bookseller at University Book Store, is really excited about Sandra Cisneros’s book A House of My Own, and she thinks you should be, too.
Letizia’s voice bubbles over with enthusiasm for House. It’s “a collection of essays, articles, and non-fiction stories” that Cisneros has “compiled and collected over the past 30 years.” It’s autobiography, but also not: highlights for Letizia include a profile of Chavela Vargas, “an incredible ranchera singer” who was openly gay at a time when that was a dangerous decision, and a piece eulogizing Eduardo Galeano.
What attracts Letizia to Ciscneros’s work? “She’s very honest about her process and her feelings. For example, there’s an essay in here about her being the only daughter— how her dad always used to introduce his kids as saying he has seven sons and she’d say, ‘no you have six sons and a daughter.’” That discomfort, Letizia explains, and those “lack of expectations,” gave Cisneros “the freedom to write.”
But would someone who’s never read Cisneros enjoy A House of My Own? “Definitely, it would be rewarding,” Letizia says. In fact, she thinks new readers “would get sucked into it.” Cisneros’s voice is just so welcoming. “Everything that she puts down on paper seems so intimate. It’s like when someone you care about makes you dinner? That’s how I feel when I read her writing. She really does it to honor the reader,” Letizia says.
So what kind of people would this be a great gift for? Letizia says it would appeal to travelers —“she writes a lot of about Yugoslavia and France and Greece and how she interacts with people there” — and for aspiring writers, who’ll find Cisneros’s openness to be “very inspirational.”
The bookseller’s curse is that by the time the holidays come around and they get to really promote their holiday picks, they’ve already read a dozen other books in the interim. So what has Letizia been reading lately? “I don’t really read a lot of modern, newer stuff. I just read Lit by Mary Karr. It was absolutely incredible — a real kick in the pants to read.” And she just started reading the Wrinkle in Time quintet. Somehow, when she was a kid, she never found out Madeline L’Engle wrote more than one book in the series, but Letizia is fixing that mistake even as you read these lines: “I’m deep in that now,” she says.