Mexican-American author, Sandra Cisneros, tells the story of a young Latin American girl growing up in a poor Chicago neighborhood. Taught in middle school and in high school classrooms throughout the country and translated into many languages, this coming-of-age narrative is a timeless classic.
Told through a series of vignettes, the protagonist, Esperanza, whose name means hope in Spanish, moves with her family into a dilapidated house on Mango Street in a predominantly poor and Hispanic barrio. Her courage to carve a future for herself and her will to defy the limitations that have been placed upon her and the other women in her life inspire both young and old readers. Cisneros explores such themes and topics as gender, family, shame, cultural tradition, and denial.
The lyricism of Cisneros’ diction and language throughout the novel brings the characters to life. Her characters force us to confront the emotions that connect us to one another and help us to understand personal relationships, which can be both heartbreaking and rejuvenating. We, as readers, also learn of the impacts that poverty, violence, and abuse can have on individuals, families, and communities.
Cisneros breathes life into Esperanza as the first-person narrator whose stories tackle such stark topics as abuse and misogyny. Through Esperanza’s narrations and short sketches, we also learn of her neighbors and their lives. The book begins with an introduction of its collection of characters whom the protagonist meets and encounters. Readers explore Esperanza’s unique cultural background and learn of her innermost thoughts through her distinct voice and her use of lyrical and descriptive language. With each vignette, the characters expose readers to the long-lasting effects of shame and pride, inclusion and exile, hope and hopelessness.
Other novels similar to The House on Mango Street that students may enjoy include:
How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents by Julia Alvarez
So Far From God by Ana Castillo
Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya