Young Adult Education A House All My Own: ‘The House On Mango Street' by Sandra Cisneros Kerry Winfrey

The House on Mango Street is yet another book that falls under the category, “Classics I Definitely Should Have Read A Long Time Ago But Somehow Never Did.” I don’t know how these things happen. Honestly, if you knew all the great books I haven’t read, you’d probably declare me unfit to write a book column. But I’m glad I finally got a chance to read The House On Mango Street, because it’s a fantastic book. It’s poetic and funny, even when it’s heartbreaking.

While this is technically a novel, it’s not told in a typical way. Instead of a linear story, we get short vignettes that describe Esperanza’s life on Mango Street in a Latino neighborhood in Chicago. We learn about her surroundings, her neighbors, her hopes and her dreams. What we realize along with Esperanza is how limiting Mango Street can be—not just for her, but for everyone, especially women. She’s surrounded by women who can’t or won’t leave their houses, who are kept there by their own fears or by controlling men. These are women who see men as saviors, even as they’re repeatedly disappointed. Esperanza describes her friend Sally, who gets married before she’s even in eighth grade so she can get away from her physically abusive father, only to end up married to a guy who’s so possessive he won’t even let her look out the window. But Esperanza knows her life doesn’t end at Mango Street. She knows it’s bigger than a window frame.

What I love about The House on Mango Street is that, even though it’s about sex and boys and relationships, ultimately it’s about the power of independent women. Esperanza wants to live on her own, without relying on anyone. Near the end of the book, Esperanza talks about the house she wants for herself: “Not a man’s house. Not a daddy’s. A house all my own. With my porch and my pillow, my pretty purple petunias. My books and my stories. My two shoes waiting beside the bed. Nobody to shake a stick at. Nobody’s garbage to pick up after. Only a house quiet as snow, a space for myself to go, clean as paper before a poem.”

I mean…that’s pretty great, right? I loved The House On Mango Street, and if you haven’t read it yet, you should definitely check it out. It’s a perfect book for anyone who’s ever wanted to escape the life around them.

Some Highlights:

-The more I read about Sandra Cisneros, the more I fall in love with her. On her website, she says she would love to meet “Pee-Wee Herman, Ru-Paul and John Waters…hopefully at the same time.” If you put Prince in there instead of Pee-Wee, it sounds strangely similar to my own celebrity wish list.

-It’s no accident that The House On Mango Street reads like poetry sometimes—Sandra Cisneros is also a poet!

-Sandra Cisneros writes about her writing process in the introduction: “I searched for the “ugliest” subjects I could find, the most un-“poetic”—slang, monologues in which waitresses or kids talked their own lives. I was trying as best I could to write the kind of book I had never seen in a library or in a school, the kind of book not even my professors could write. Each week I ingested the class readings and then went off and did the opposite. It was a quiet revolution, perhaps a reaction taken to extremes, but it was out of this negative experience that I found something positive: my own voice.”

-Sandra Cisneros also wrote Woman Hollering Creek, Loose Woman and Carmelo.

What about you…have you read The House On Mango Street? Have you read any other Sandra Cisneros books? Let me know in the comments! And, as always, I love to hear your suggestions for books to feature in Young Adult Education. Leave a comment, email me at youngadulteducation@gmail.com or find me on Twitter @KerryAnn.

Image via On Mature Recollection

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  1. It’s amazing to see a book written in such an innocent context tackle profoundly complicated and relevant themes. I recommend everyone read Face of an Angel next. It’s another great book about a Chicana/Latina woman facing adversity. Warning: it tackles profound content like The House on Mango Street; however, in an adult manner.

  2. I reread The House on Mango Street this past semester for my YA lit class and remembered how much I loved it! It got included it in my final presentation.

  3. I read this book after finding it through one of my siblings discarded used books(which is how my love of books started) Thank God they had good reading taste! My favorite book by Sandra Cisneros is Caramelo. I wrote a comparison between The House on Mango Street and Caramelo for a Literature class and noticed the similarities in her books, including her need to always want to distance herself from what is expected of a Mexican woman and what she wants, which is everything but. Every girl should read this growing up. There is a good interview with her out there I recommend to watch.

  4. I recommend Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi. I just finished it and am anxiously awaiting for the second book in the trilogy. It’s so so good.

  5. I read that book in high school and then was lucky enough to get assigned to it in my children’s lit class in college. I adore the book because it does talk about molestation and other tough subjects. Esperanza has such a good humor about everything that happens to her throughout the book.