Woman Hollering Creek: And Other Stories explores life of women on both sides of the Mexico-USA border. Although mostly written in English, this short story collection does include bits and pieces of Spanish sprinkled throughout, which I really enjoyed as someone studying Spanish in college. It’s always fun to see how quickly your mind can go between multiple languages without you even realizing it in the moment (especially when you’ve been studying abroad for a while and haven’t had a chance to brush up on your Spanish in far too long…). However, I wouldn’t say it’s absolutely necessary to know Spanish in order to take away a decent amount from this collection. (Although you might be a little confused at times!)
One of my favorite things about this collection is that it mainly focuses on the lives of women from numerous generations. From kids and teenagers to middle-age mothers and beyond, there is something here that everyone will be able to relate to in some form. Here we see women struggling to balance traditional, stereotypical, restrictive expectations of girls and wives with their own desires, ambitions, and happiness. While many of these experiences may be specific to those living in the middle of Mexican and American cultures, Cisneros also taps into seemingly universal themes of love, childhood, motherhood, nostalgia, etc. I finished this book feeling both frustrated at the gender inequality still present in our society and empowered by the prospect of women rising up to where we know we can be.
Woman Hollering Creek also provides a fascinating and important exploration of the culture surrounding the border between Mexico and the USA. For instance, this frontera cultural is reflected in the use of language in the story “Mericans,” the title of which demonstrates the mix of both cultures that form the chicano/a identity. The kids in the story seem like Mexicans from the perspective of the American woman, yet they also speak English. When the American woman is surprised that the kids speak English, one of the boys says: “we’re Mericans.” The name of the identity that with which the kids identify is not exactly American or Mexican; rather, this name represents the border between these two cultures. It’s also an example of a misunderstanding or miscommunication between these two cultures between the kids in the story might believe that they should pronounce “Americans” without the first letter. In this way, the use of language in this story demonstrates the cultural border because the work “Mericans” is a combination of two languages that mix between the physical border as well as the different cultures in these two countries in general.
Overall, Woman Hollering Creek is an incredibly important book in a society that often incorrectly views cultures as contained, distinct, and unchangeable identities. Perhaps if more people read even one of these stories they would have a greater understanding and appreciation for what can happen when people from all nations and backgrounds come together. I would highly recommend this short story collection, regardless of whether or not your Spanish-speaking skills are up to par.
What are your thoughts on Woman Hollering Creek? Any recommendations for other writing by Sandra Cisneros or similar short story collections? Let me know in the comments section below!