Sandra Cisneros’s modern classic, [amazon asin=0679734775&text=The House on Mango Street] is a collection of vignettes in the life of Esperanza Cordero, a young Latina growing up in Chicago. She is discovering who she is as well as who she wants to be and what she wants from life. Cisneros’s background as a poet shines in some of the vignettes, which have beautiful phrasing and eloquence.
All ninth grade students and advisors at my school read this book this summer as part of our exploration of the motif of community. It is an interesting choice because Esperanza is of the community of Mango Street and while she recognizes the truth of this, she also wishes she could change it. She has dreams of having her own house, somewhere else. The 25th anniversary edition of this book has an interesting introduction written by Cisneros that offers a great deal of insight into Esperanza’s story. While it’s foolish to imagine that writers are always writing about their own lives or are allowing their protagonists to stand in for them in their stories, in the case of The House on Mango Street, it might be true, and after reading the novel, I felt especially happy for Cisneros because she describes her house near San Antonio, Texas, and I had the sense that little Esperanza, whose dreams and fears I came to care about so much, eventually got her wish. I won’t go so far as to say that everyone can relate to The House on Mango Street. I think you have to have grown up not getting everything you wanted and knowing that there was a place for you that was better and was all your own. This book does have interesting things to say about community—how it is established, what holds it together, and what it means to feel like an outsider in your community and yet still realize it’s a part of who you are.
Cisneros’s writing is gorgeous. The House on Mango Street is a quick read that many should be able to digest in one sitting. I took two mainly because I wanted to stretch it out. I think many students have begun studying this book in middle school, and perhaps that is because Esperanza is about that age, but I’m not sure middle schoolers would appreciate it. I’m not really sure high school students would. At least not all of them. I think this book is best appreciated by readers who have some distance between their current and childhood selves and can reflect on their own Mango Streets.Rating: