Sandra Cisneros wrote The House On Mango Street in 1984. It is a coming of age novel narrated by Esperanza, who speaks life as a young Latina girl in Chicago in a series of short, poetic vignettes, organized into little chapters. The vignettes are punctuated with beautiful images, and simple, poetic language. The short chapters illustrate different aspects of Esperanza’s life in creative, thoughtful ways. One chapter is devoted to describing the different kinds of hair her family members have, while another compares the children in her neighbourhood to birds.
She describes her neighbours, friends, family and teachers, leaving much unsaid but revealing stories that are complex, thought provoking, and touching. Esperanza’s keen observations touch on racism, poverty, religion, gender roles, sexual assault and class issues. Cisneros’ writing is skillful and deals delicately with the heavier issues, juxtaposing them with humour, poetry and beautiful images.
An important and reoccurring theme throughout the chapters is Esperanza’s desire for a permanent house for her family. She also devotes many chapters to observing the role of women in her community, noticing that many of them are limited and isolated by their domestic roles and the way they are treated by the men in their lives. As the story progresses, Esperanza becomes increasingly committed to a living her life as an independent, unmarried, woman, using her writing to focus on her dreams.
While young girls who are interested in gender roles and class issues may related best to the story, it is a good recommendation for any reader who appreciates good writing. It may also be a good selection for reluctant readers of poetry, and is a good introduction to elements of post-modern storytelling. The House On Mango Street is a classic that should never be forgotten.