The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros is a poignant coming-of-age book centered around a young Latina girl, Esperanza, in 1960s Chicago.
In a series of vignettes, or short stories, Cisneros examines themes of maturity, belonging, poverty, and femininity. The vignettes are told from Esperanza’s point of view, laden with rich imagery and symbolism, and hazy- like they are being told in a dream. Each vignette focuses on small events in Esperanza’s day to day life, and provides insight into her thoughts and desires.
Cisneros skillfully presents the dichotomy of Esperanza and her family’s life- many of the vignettes center around happy moments in their lives, like playing outside with friends, getting a first job, or going to a neighbor’s party, but even so, the abject hopelessness and desperation of their situation lurks just below the surface. The entire book is a masterful study of not only Esperanza’s situation, but the human condition- a careful examination of ritualistic maturity, traditions, gender norms, and youth.
Cisneros writes in a simple, easily understandable vernacular, complete with sentence fragments and a lack of quotation marks that makes each vignette easy to read. Nonetheless, the book contains a depth of emotion and, often, desperation that was immensely heart-wrenching to witness. I grew up in circumstances close to those of Esperanza’s, so reading about her experiences took me back to my own childhood, to times when I felt the same way she did. Personally, I would rate this book a 10/10.
This book contains some mature themes.