Erika Sánchez

American poet, writer

Erika L. Sánchez (born c. 1984) is an poet and writer who lives in Chicago, USA. She is the author of poetry collection Lessons on Expulsion and a young adult novel I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter, a 2017 finalist for the National Book Award for Young People's Literature. She was a professor at DePaul University.

Erika Sánchez in 2018


  • Kids really do see through our bull and have shorter attention spans.
  • (Which subjects do you wish more authors would write about?) Money. White authors often write about money (or don’t) in a way that disregards the realities of most people. It’s as if they assume that everyone simply has it. Or at least their readers. I remember reading “Fear of Flying,” by Erica Jong, many years ago, for instance, and getting very angry when the protagonist went to Europe for months with no concern for money or a job. I assumed she was relying on family money, but it was never explained. It took me out of the text because I couldn’t get over it. Maybe it’s because I grew up working class and money was a factor in everything we did. Marginalized people could never in their wildest dreams make these kinds of choices. That’s why I always write about the financial realities of my characters. I don’t expect everyone to assume what they are. Those details really matter to me.

Crying in the Bathroom: A Memoir (2022)



  • I grew up thinking I didn't matter, that no one cared what I had to say. The world didn't see me, a daughter of working-class Mexican immigrants, and what it did see, it considered disposable, inconsequential. I rarely found portrayals of anyone like me-bookish and poor and surly and Brown-in the art that I enjoyed. I searched everywhere for a model for the life I wanted, but found few. I wanted to be a writer and travel around the world, but I had no idea how I was going to make that happen. I saw only snippets of that kind of life here and there. Texts like the poetry of Sandra Cisneros were a lifeline. Here was a Mexican girl from Chicago who'd become a writer and traveled alone through Europe. But texts like hers were rare finds for me, because, it seemed, I was the only one in my immediate vicinity looking for them. My teachers didn't often teach books by people of color, and I didn't have mentors or access to the internet, which was rudimentary at that time. The libraries in my community were so limited and hostile toward children that I began stealing books from the bookstore. Today, of course, I know that there were other books out there at the time that spoke to who I was, but they didn't make it into my hands very often. So when no template existed, I did what Lucille Clifton wrote about in her poem "won't you celebrate with me" and made it up.
  • I consider Toni Morrison the patron saint of my writing. To write with her level of honesty and clarity is my North Star. Virginia Woolf is referenced in this book again and again, both for her work and for her tragic life, which, I suppose, are one and the same. Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz became a model for my rebellion. And the list goes on and on. None of my books could have been written without these extraordinary authors. I'm indebted to all the women who came before, those who paved the way as well as those whose talents were extinguished, buried, or sublimated because the world was afraid of their strength. It's thanks to their rebellions, big and small, that I get to lead this extraordinary life-that is, a life completely of my choosing. I am myself in a world that pressures me to be otherwise, a world that doesn't love me, wasn't for me.
  • Women of color are regularly praised for our resilience, but what's too often overlooked is that our resilience is a response to so many forms of violence. For us, resilience is more than a noble trait; it's a lifestyle that oppression has demanded of us. Either we adapt or we die. Even so, we need not be mere caricatures. Our stories matter, despite what the rest of society would like us to believe.
  • We all see different versions of the same thing. I have written the truest book I was capable of creating. It's the way I've always made sense of the world and my life.
  • I talk about a lot of the things that I talked about in the book in class: I’m always discussing mental health. I’m discussing racism, all the “isms.” I just want them to have information and to have choices because I felt like I didn’t have a lot of choices myself.
  • A lot of people asked: Why did you start with your vagina? Because I don’t think it’s nasty.
  • Poetry is kind of a constant in my life and so that’s something that just won’t ever change because poetry is what allows me to write the prose that I do.
  • (“Mexican Daughter” has been banned in a few places. Do you feel if your book has been banned, you’ve actually done something right?) A: I think a lot of people who are upset about these books haven’t read any of them. They’ve just been fed all of these lies that they just perpetuate. I would really like to know, what was it that was so offensive? The mention of abortion, the mention of drugs? I guess people have a problem with that. But I think what people really have a problem with is the title. Because we’re not supposed to take up space. And our stories haven’t been allowed into the mainstream until now and so people are mad that their kids are going to be reading about some ‘hood, Mexican chick in Chicago, It’s so silly to me...It’s very upsetting that they’re so afraid of new ideas and the truth that they hide these texts, hide information to keep this lie going of what the world is.

Interview with Latino Book Review (2018)

  • I feel that books choose me when they’re ready. I can’t force them into being.
  • I mostly find myself writing in Spanglish. I think and feel in both languages.
  • I think, for the most part, borders are bullshit. I have trouble accepting the notion that governments have the right to tell people where they can and can’t go. I’m always suspicious of binaries, whether physical or metaphorical.
  • (Do you have any advice for aspiring writers of color?) Build community. You won’t get very far without it. You have to support other writers. Read and promote as much as you can. Also, you have to come to terms with rejection. Not everyone is going to love your work, and that’s ok. You just have to keep going. No matter how accomplished you may be, you probably won’t escape it. Write because you love it, not for fame or recognition.

Quotes about Sánchez

  • I relished especially the stories she shares about being a wanderer savoring her solitude, a rare gift for a woman, but absolutely essential for any writer.
  • Lessons on Expulsion marks the arrival of a vital new voice in American poetry. With penetrating intelligence and lyrical precision, Erika L. Sánchez makes visible the violence striking down Mexican women living on the border and interrogates the historical and the familial origins of misogyny. Her deft braiding of the beautiful and the grotesque infuses her language with a shimmering rawness and a startling immediacy. Her gaze is unflinching and feminist; it marvels and questions and testifies. Lessons on Expulsion is an uncompromising and singular debut.
  • Erika’s writing grabs a hold and won’t let go. She’s equal parts pee-your-pants hilarity and break your heart poignancy
  • A rare one with phosphorescent night-powers & deep-fire mind tools, Erika L. Sánchez
  • Erika L. Sánchez writes with persistent care. . . . Reading Sánchez's poems is like watching the world from a train, the exquisite rhythmic blend of the known and the unknown. The world remains always more than we can understand, yet suddenly, thanks to her great poetry, we are pierced by what we know.
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