The House on Mango Street

house on mango street

"The House on Mango Street" has entered the canon of coming-of-age classics even as it depicts a new American landscape. Sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes deeply joyous, "The House on Mango Street" tells the story of Esperanza Cordero, whose neighborhood is one of harsh realities and harsh beauty. Esperanza doesn't want to belong - not to her run-down neighborhood, and not to the low expectations the world has for her. Esperanza's story is that of a young girl coming into her power, and inventing for herself what she will become.

Esperanza's story is told in a series of vignettes, each a snapshot of a memory of her life as a young Mexican-American girl growing up in a Latino section of Chicago, each adding to our knowledge of her dreams, aspirations and the realities of her life on Mango Street. It is simple, beautiful, eloquent, emotional, poetic and will be remembered.

Pg. 11 & 12 - Named for her great-mother "..a wild horse of a woman, she wouldn't marry. Until my great-grandfather threw a sack over her head and carried her off. Just like that, as if she were a fancy chandelier. That's the way he did it.
And the story goes she never forgave him. She looked out the window her whole life, the way so many women sit their sadness on an elbow. I wonder if she made the best with what she got or was she sorry because she couldn't be all the things she wanted to be. Esperanza, I have inherited her name, but I don't want to inherit her place by the window."

We see within the pages a young girl who knows at a young age what she wants from life and equally as important, what she doesn't want. She sees others in her neighborhood and rejects their choices as they would hold her back, but she doesn't reject the people, they are her friends, her family and those she loves.  

As puberty comes, so does the betrayal of friends, the unwanted advances of men and then sexual assault. While angry at the men who assaulted her, the real blame she lays on the women who should have warned her rather than falling into the "sex is love' trap.

(show spoiler)

She closely watches the women in her neighborhood and notes the situations they are incapable of escaping, some literal prisoners in their own homes. Each observation will add to her desire to leave Mango Street behind her, to have better.

pg.88 & 89 - My mother says when I get older my dusty hair will settle and my blouse will learn to stay clean, but I have decided not to grow up tame like the others who lay their necks on the threshold waiting for the ball and chain.
"In the movies there is always one with red red lips who is beautiful and cruel. The is the one who drives the men crazy. She will not give it away."I have begun my own quiet war. Simple. Sure. I am one who leaves the table like a man, without putting back the chair or picking up the plate."

As she strives for her dreams, she also remembers those on Mango Street, those that helped to shape her. She may wish to leave Mango Street but it is a part of her, the experiences and the people were integral in making her the person she has become.


"They will not know I have gone away to come back. For the ones I left behind. For the ones who cannot out." 


This book is deceptively simple in style, yet it is rich in meaning. I encourage you to read it, twice, the first time just for the sheer joy of it, the second time to examine it more closely for the messages it offers! Excellent!


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