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The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros

Source: Purchased at Public Library Book Sale
Paperback, 110 pages
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The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros is a coming-of-age story about Esperanza Cordero in a Latino neighborhood on Mango Street in Chicago.  She doesn’t remember much of the time before Mango Street, and it is clear that things were both good and bad there.  Neighbors she knew were hit by their husbands, while others had given up on their dreams simply because they got married.  In many ways these stories are woven together and are lyrical enough that they could be an epic poem about growing up as an immigrant in America.

Each short vignette tells a story from Esperanza’s point of view, revealing the harsh realities of growing up in an area other people are afraid to step foot in.

“All brown all around, we are safe.  But watch us drive into a neighborhood of another color and our knees go shakity-shake and our car windows get rolled up tight and our eyes look straight.”  (page 28)

Esperanza is growing up and learning how to become a woman, running in the city streets in heels an old lady hands her and her friends.  At the same time, she’s struggling to hold onto her childhood, while she’s admiring the older girls in the neighborhood wearing make-up and nylons.  She’s naive about relationships between girls and boys and she finds herself in situations where she can be taken advantage of, thanks to those she trusts.  But she also comforts her father when he cries.

“They don’t walk like ordinary dogs, but leap and somersault like an apostrophe and comma.” (page 71)

Cisneros paints a bleak picture as seen through Esperanza’s eyes, but at the same time she allows her character to feel something beyond the confines of her neighborhood.  She does not want to be that woman who merely looks at the possibilities and wallows in sadness and regret.  The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros pays homage to these struggling women in a cadence, and she ensures readers not only glimpse a life that may be unfamiliar but that still contains a sliver of hope.

About the Author:

Sandra Cisneros was born in Chicago in 1954. Internationally acclaimed for her poetry and fiction, she has been the recipient of numerous awards, including the Lannan Literary Award and the American Book Award, and of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the MacArthur Foundation. Cisneros is the author of two novels The House on Mango Street and Caramelo; a collection of short stories, Woman Hollering Creek; two books of poetry, My Wicked Ways and Loose Woman; and a children’s book, Hairs/Pelitos. She is the founder of the Macondo Foundation, an association of writers united to serve underserved communities (www.macondofoundation.org), and is Writer in Residence at Our Lady of the Lake University, San Antonio.

This is my 58th book for the 2013 New Authors Challenge.

  • I should probably borrow this one from you at some point!

    • Feel free to borrow it at anytime…nice and short for those quick reads

  • This book has been on TBR list for ages – thanks for the reminder. I’m moving it much nearer the top!

  • Ti

    I am pretty sure my club read this for book club, but I cannot remember any of it. I don’t recall if I liked it either. I think maybe at some point I need to revisit it.

    • I think you should revisit this one. I probably will.

  • Beth Hoffman

    This sounds like a book I need to read!

    • I’d heard about this book more than once from different people, so I had to get it when I saw it at the library sale.

  • I love books like this. I think reading them helps us empathize with others better.

    • I agree, Kathy. This one was so well done, and it was short…which was mind-boggling. I thought it was longer.

  • I love this book. I read it in college and now own multiple copies because I buy it when I see it used so it can have a home. Which reminds me…I need to give some away. It was sad but it felt so realistic.

    • This is the first time I’ve read it! I really was surprised at how short it was given all that I’ve heard about it.