Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The House on Mango Street

Title:  The House on Mango Street
Author:  Sandra Cisneros
Publication Information:  Vintage Contemporaries, Vintage Books, Random House, Inc. 1984. 110 pages.
ISBN:  0780743229 / 978-0780743229

Book Source:  I read this book because the title and cover appealed to me.

Favorite Quote:  "You can never have too much sky."

The House on Mango Street is semi-autobiographical fiction. It is the tale of Esperanza Cordero, a young Latina girl coming of age in an urban Chicago neighborhood. The neighborhood is fairly self-contained, consisting mostly of Hispanic immigrants like Esperanza and her family. She is growing up poor and dreams of leaving the world she knows in search of a better life. She is surrounded by difficulty but also with love.

This book is not written as a traditional novel.  At about 100 pages, it is very short and a very quick read. Also, it is written in a series of vignettes, each a page or two long.

The dictionary defines a vignette as "a brief evocative description, account, or episode" and "a small illustration that fades into the background without a definite border."

This book meets both definitions. Each vignette describes an episode or a memory in Esperanza's life. The subject matter is often difficult including poverty, accidents, rape, and death. The writing is beautiful, almost poetic in nature. Each vignette is a point. Yet, when you take a step back, each fades into the other. The points connect, and you see a picture of Esperanza's life.

Esperanza's story seems symbolic of the story of many first generation immigrants, regardless of culture and of young people growing up to define their own place in the world:

"When you leave you must remember to come back for the others. A circle, understand? You will always be Mango Street. You can't erase what you know. You can't forget who you are."

The lesson appears to be that every step, every moment in your life makes you the person you are. Your heritage, each home you live in, each person you meet remain a part of you. Own that past, and then create your own future.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.


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