Title: The House on Mango Street
Author: Sandra Cisneros
Publication Date: 3 April 2009
Genre: Contemporary Literature
Add it: Goodreads
Buy it: Amazon|Book Depository
Told in a series of vignettes – sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes deeply joyous – it is the story of a young Latina girl growing up in Chicago, inventing for herself who and what she will become.
Here on The Little Book Nerd’s Life I try to only include novels that I think you guys are going to pick up purely for pleasure reading. I don’t really expect you guys to sit there and analyze any of these novels. But all that changes today.
The House on Mango Street isn’t one of those books that you just pick up for the fun of it. I mean you can but you’ll really dislike it and may only give it a 1 or 2 star rating (like I did). Mango Street is intended to be analyzed and the work really comes alive when it is.
I read it for the first time as a senior in high school for my AP Spanish course so we didn’t really talk much about it. It was a weird read – chapters that were strange and short with characters that you never really got to understand. And I missed the big climax in the middle of the story because I was reading it in a language – Spanish – that I didn’t completely understand. I just recently (aka 2 weeks ago) reread Mango Street for a presentation in my Multicultural English course. And while I was analyzing it, so many little nuances became very clear.
I wish I could show you my presentation but I can’t. So here’s what I’ll say. The House on Mango Street is a bildungsroman – which is an unnecessarily fancy word for a coming-of-age story – that is vastly different from other’s of its kind. Most importantly, it emphasizes the importance of the community to create and shape the individual rather than on just the individual. Specifically, Cisneros focuses on the sexual maturity of a young girl within the Chicano (Mexican-American) society. Cisneros deals with a number of issues and traditions seen within this society and shows the impact on both the main character Esperanza and the other women who live on Mango Street.
But what really makes this novel stand out is the way that it is written. Each chapter is a vignette and almost every vignette introduces a new character. However, none of these characters feel fabricated. They all seem to be real people that Cisneros has just written into her story. And maybe they are, but if they aren’t Cisneros did a phenomenal job of creating realistic, tangible characters. I’ve read a lot and unarguably Cisneros has created the most human, real life characters I’ve ever gotten to read.
I’m not going to lie, I did a complete 180 after analyzing this piece of literature. It’s not something I would recommend if you just want something to read for fun. But if you enjoy examining literature for the author’s message and purpose then this is for you. Or if you need a novel to analyze for a class, this is a fantastic story to work with. And the beauty of it is it’s really short – there are 44 chapters and each chapter is about 2 pages.
How did you guys feel about this more literary analysis style? Would you like to see more of this or no?