Her writing frequently engages with the construction of feminist Latina identity, folding Spanish phrases into a hybrid, spiraling syntax that crosses languages as her characters shift between cultures. In an interview for the New York Times, Cisneros discussed the experience and power of shifting between cultures and languages, stating, "I'm a translator. I'm an amphibian. I can travel in both worlds. What I'm saying is very important for the Latino community, but it is also important for the white community to hear. What I'm saying in my writing is that we can be Latino and still be American."
Cisneros is the author of several poetry collections, including Bad Boys (1980), My Wicked Wicked Ways (1987), and Loose Woman (1994). Her debut novel, The House on Mango Street (1984), won an American Book Award (Before Columbus Foundation); her second novel, Caramelo (2002), was selected a noteworthy book of the year by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune, and the San Francisco Chronicle. Her story collection Woman Hollering Creek and Other Stories (1991) won the PEN Center West Award for Best Fiction, the Lannan Foundation Literary Award, the Quality Paperback Book Club New Voices Award, and the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award. Cisneros is also author of the children’s book Hairs/Pelitos (1994). Cisneros’s work has been translated into more than a dozen languages; Vintage Cisneros (2003) offers a selection of her writing.
Cisneros’s many honors include a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, the Texas Medal of the Arts, fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts in both poetry and fiction, the Dobie-Paisano Fellowship from the Texas Institute of Letters, and an Illinois Artists Grant. Cisneros has been granted honorary doctorates from Loyola University of Chicago and Purchase College, State University of New York. Books about her life and work include Sandra Cisneros: Latina Writer and Activist (1998), by Caryn Mirrian-Goldberg; Border Crossings and Beyond: The Life and Works of Sandra Cisneros (2009), by Carmen Haydee Rivera; and the young adult volumes A Home in the Heart: The Story of Sandra Cisneros (2005) and Sandra Cisneros: Inspiring Latina Author (2010), by Karen Clemens Warrick. Cisneros has been the subject of several critical works, including Harold Bloom’s interpretive guide Sandra Cisneros’s The House on Mango Street (2009).
Founding president of the Macondo Foundation and the Alfredo Cisneros Del Moral Foundation, Cisneros lives in San Antonio, Texas. The library of Amherst College has archived a small selection of her papers.