The House on Mango Street
by Sandra Cistneros
1984 / 111 pages
read by author: 2h 18m
rating 10 / 20th century
(both read and listened)
Second reading – I knew I would it’s sooo good and because it’s that good even on a second reading I hang to give it a 10 . I’ve been meaning to read this for ages but time is slippery and there are too many books – finally a group nominated it and that’s one way I’ll read it for sure – and then I’ll get sucked into reading it a second time
The whole book is only a bit over 100 pages plus the Introduction which is also totally wonderful. The Audio I listened to used the Introduction from the 10th Anniversary edition while the Kindle version used the Introduction from the 25th Anniversary edition. Both by Cisneros and both very good. I didn’t read them until I’d finished my first reading and fallen in love with both the author and her creation, Esperanza.
There are scores of reviews and chapter by chapter teacher aids out there (this is taught in schools from Junior High to college – it’s that kind of book. The voice of the 1st person narrator goes from about age 4 or 5 to somewhere in her early to mid- teens, I’m not sure. So that makes it a coming-of-age story in itself. But for maybe a third of the book Esperanza is an unreliable narrator because at the age of 7 or so, she could hardly be happy and excited when the neighbor boy gets taken away by the cops in a police car – she truly doesn’t understand what it means. Any reader over age 10 does though.
The book is so full of literary stuff – from the unreliable narrator to childhood rhymes and rhythms, from symbolism or allusion (especially feet) and incredible metaphors and themes like feminist issues or racism and otherness. The idea of sex comes up as it will between the ages of 5 and 15 – sometimes yukkie. It’s sometimes a sad and lonely book, but it’s also realistic and hopeful – especially knowing it’s generally based on Cisneros’ life which turned out nicely. There are times it’s even funny (see “A Rice Sandwich”).
Each chapter is a little mini-story unto itself but woven into a larger picture of growing up Hispanic female in Chicago, but the point is that Esperanza becomes aware and wants her own house – somewhere she can be who she is on the inside – not what others expect her to be, including the neighbors and her father.
It’s full of a girl’s desires and while she manages to get much of it she’s then disappointed because it’s not what she wanted or it doesn’t fulfill her or something, Sometimes this happens to her friends and neighbors or her family. And she grows up, leaving the dangers, constraints and traps of Mango Street behind.