” In English my name means hope. In Spanish it means too many letters. It means sadness, it means waiting. It is like the number nine. A muddy color. It is the Mexican records my father plays on Sunday mornings when he is shaving, songs like sobbing. ” (My Name, p.10)
The House on Mango Street is a collection of literary sketches, narrated by a young girl named Esperanza Cordero, who grows up in the Latino district of Chicago. The old, dilapidated house on Mango Street, with “windows so small you’d think they were holding their breath,” (p.4) belongs to her parents. It’s an improvement to the many rental tenements they had lived since they no longer have to share the yard, mind their noise, and have a reliable water supply.
Nenny is too young to be my friend. She’s just my sister and that was not my fault. You don’t pick your sisters, you just get them and sometimes they came like Nenny . . . For the moment I’m just a red balloon attached to an anchor. (Boys and Girls, p.8-9)
The series of vignettes follow Esperanza’s life and the people who populate her neighborhood. There is Nenny, her younger sister who is too young to be her friend, let alone to confide secrets with. Rachel and Lucy are two sisters who become close friends of Esperanza’s. Sally, whom she is jealous of, becomes a victim of abuse because her father would punish her for violating religious creed. Then there is a bum at the corner of the street who offers the girls money in return for kisses. The girls realize that growing up isn’t all it is made out to be as the man tries to test their invulnerability.
And if you opened the little window latch and gave it a shove, the windows would swing open, all the sky would come in. There’d be no nosy neighbors watching, no motorcycles and cars, no sheets and towels and laundry. Only trees and more trees and plenty of blue sky. (Sally, p.82)
With a mood that alternates between heartbreaking and joyous, The House on Mango Street tells the story of a girl, mindful of the harsh realities to which her fate has subjected her, who doesn’t want to belong. She wants to leave the rundown neighborhood, to flee the low expectations the world has for her. An ongoing conflict seen in many characters throughout the book is that they, more than anything, want something better than what they have and are willing to give up what makes them happy to achieve the goal. Cisneros conveys her messages well although the novel at times seems vague, scattered, and chaotic.
110pp. Vintage Contemporaries. Paper. [
Read/Skim/ Toss] [ Buy/Borrow]