Audiobooks The House on Mango Street –

Acclaimed by critics, beloved by readers of all ages, taught everywhere from innercity grade schools to universities across the country, and translated all over the world, The House on Mango Street is the remarkable story of Esperanza Cordero 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 Few other books in our time have touched so many readers

10 thoughts on “The House on Mango Street

  1. Brina Brina says:

    Ever since middle school when I discovered the writings of the amigas, I have jumped at the opportunity to read novels written by Hispanic women. Despite my life long love of this genre, I have never until now had the privilege of reading Sandra Cisneros' A House on Mango Street. Cisneros is a torch bearer for the Hispanic women writers who I love to read today, so I feel privileged to have read her first novel, now over 30 years old.

    Sandra Cisneros grew up on Chicago's north side on Keeler street, not far from where my grandmother's family settled when they first came to the United States over half a century earlier than the Cisneros family. Recognizing street names and places, I felt an instant comradeship with Cisneros. Additionally, she attended the University of Iowa Writers Workshop, where I spent my undergraduate years. At the time she was one of two women of color in the program dominated by white men. She was viewed as a poet rather than a writer so was not afforded the same opportunities given to her colleagues. Yet, she found an agent to make the initial contacts for her and has persevered all these years later.

    A House on Mango Street began to give Latin American women their voice. Along with Gloria Andalzua, Cherrie Moraga, and Denise Chavez, Cisneros started a network and these women are now the matriarchs of the amigas who I read now. They gave Hispanic women their opportunity to enter into the writing world so that they could begin to tell their stories about their place in the fabric of American society. In her Once Upon a Quinceanera, Julia Alvarez refers to Cisneros and her colleagues as las padrinas, the godmothers- to these next generations of writers. The House on Mango Street in this sense could refer to any Latin American girl who is first coming of age and looking to fulfill the American dream.

    Mango Street, poetic in its prose, describes Esperanza, the oldest child in a Hispanic family who moves from apartment to apartment each year with her family. Mango Street is her family's first house and the neighborhood becomes a part of her existence. In two to three page vignettes, Cisneros poignantly describes Esperanza's adolescent angst. Navigating life as one of few Hispanics in her school, Esperanza faces pressure at school, at home, and with her friends. Partially autobiographical and part fiction, Cisneros employs luscious words to reveal how Esperanza desires to become a writer and leave Mango Street. As in her own life, her neighborhood will always be part of her, no matter how far she goes.

    Only 110 pages in length, A House on Mango Street is widely studied in schools as both an example of Hispanic culture and coming of age. Cisneros with Mango Street paved the way for generations of Hispanic women writers. Her story of Esperanza is poignant, poetic, and a joy to read. I am glad that I finally took the time to read Cisneros, and I rate her ground breaking work 4.5 stars.

  2. Kim Kim says:

    It’s a little after 2am. I’m having the dreams.

    The ones that blindside me and have that weird echo --- is or isn’t this real? Sleep isn’t going to happen. What’s new. I leave my room to check out the house. Doors locked? Check. Kids asleep? Check…whoa, hold up a minute. Em is awake. She’s sitting in the living room illuminated by a booklite. She’s got about 4 blankets piled on top of her and she’s….. reading. Reading? I’m used to the insomnia, on both our parts… we knock around each other, say a few words and pretend to sleep. It’s routine by now. But, to see her reading? She looks up at me and there are tears in her eyes. Okay, now I’m really testing that reality theory.

    ‘Mom, have you ever read The House on Mango Street?’

    Huh? I look over the book. No. Never even heard of it. ’A novel of a young girl growing up in the Latino section of Chicago.’ Okay… assigned to a freshman English class in Northern Vermont. Where ethnicity is reserved for the Somalian refugees that pepper Burlington, but hardly touch the suburbs. I’ll bite.

    I pick it up, it’s maybe an hour’s read. Tops. “We didn’t always live on Mango Street.” Then, I’m lost. This is lyrical, this is heart wrenching. Words are married, sentences consummated, images borne that my white-bread, New England-raised mind can’t comprehend except on an emotional level. I’m in love.

    “She looked out the window her whole life, the way so many women sit their sadness on an elbow.”

    “You can never have too much sky. You can fall asleep and wake up drunk on sky, and sky can keep you safe when you are sad. Here there is too much sadness and not enough sky.”

    “Everything is holding its breath inside of me. Everything is waiting to explode like Christmas. I want to be new and shiny.”

    “You know what you are Esperanza? You are like the Cream of Wheat cereal. You’re like the lumps.”

    “But I think diseases have no eyes. They pick with a dizzy finger anyone, just anyone.”

    “There were sunflowers as big as flowers on Mars and thick cockscombs bleeding the deep red fringe of theater curtains. There were dizzy bees and bow-tied fruit flies turning somersaults and humming in the air. Sweet sweet peach trees. Thorn roses and thistle and pears. Weeds like so many squinty-eyed stars and brush that made your ankles itch and itch until you washed with soap and water.”

    I’m caught in this world that Cisnero’s painted for me. I’m hugging Alice who sees mice and wishing that Sire would hold my hand. I’m drinking papaya juice with Rafaela and reading Minerva’s poems. I’m hiding from Red Clowns.

    I’m nostalgic for my own childhood. For that freedom that kids today cannot relate to. They have curfews, and GPS chips in cell phones, and mini LoJacks® implanted in their neck. What do they know of freedom? What do they know about riding their ten speed through dark streets guided by the screams of their friends ahead of them? Will they ever hang out in vacant lots with their friend’s older brothers who hand them warm beer and try to feel up their shirts? Hell no, not on my watch.

    So, thank you, Sandra Cisnero. Thanks for giving me back all those summer nights…

    “They will not know that I have gone away to come back. For the ones I’ve left behind. For the ones who cannot out.”

  3. James James says:

    Book Review
    4 out of 5 stars to The House on Mango Street, a short series of vignettes published in 1984 and written by Sandra Cisneros. Picture it: Long Island, August 1995. 18-year-old college student receives a letter in the mail, revealing two books he must read prior to attending the freshmen orientation seminar on his first day of college later that month. Young kid says They're giving me work to do already? WT... It went something like that. And it wasn't that I didn't want to read, and I was a good student, but seriously... I'm scared of going off to college and already being told to start doing some work. Can't I have some break before I... never mind. So I read it. And wow, it's fantastic. A short collection of stories about growing up in Chicago, learning how to live on your own (sort of). Meeting different people. Seeing other sides of life. Learning more than you thought was out there. Embracing change and culture.

    Oh... I get it... that's what's about to happen to me! Wow... nice book. Thanks. So then I get to the orientation. And they want us to discuss it in a random group that was set up. So we get put in groups of 6. I'm with some weird-looking people. At 18, I looked about 12 still. For some reason, I got stuck with the other 18-year-olds who looked 28. I wanted to call them mom and dad. But I knew better. I kept my mouth shut. Sandra Cisneros has just taught me that. So... I'm very shy and don't say a word. No one speaks. I realize I guess I must say something. So I said. I liked it a lot. Everyone nodded. I said something like what did you think?

    I'll save you the drama. None of them read it. I was the only one who did. How embarrassing for them! It was so good... but I played it cool and described the plot. It seemed to open up the conversation, but then we were asked to nominate a leader to step up to the stage and explain your group's understanding of the book. Oh you know... vengeance... some day... payback...

    My lesson. Don't ever read a book again. JUST KIDDING! You must read this one. It's a beautiful story and helps you embrace change and difference. And the characters are quite memorable and quirky. Quick read. Maybe 2 hours. You should definitely give it a chance.

    About Me
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  4. Nishat Nishat says:

    I make a story for my life, for each step my brown shoe takes.

    Esperanza Cordero, a Mexican-American girl living in poverty, gives a soaring voice to a multitude of characters who otherwise would remain in darkness all their pitiful lives. Echoing the undying optimism even in the most wretched place, Esperanza stands for sunny days, for light and memories.

    In the midst of countless insignificant young adult books, The House On Mango Street is an exception. Awe-inspiring writing with a powerful message duly delivered.

  5. Lisa (Harmonybites) Lisa (Harmonybites) says:

    I found the introduction filled with unintended ironies. Cisneros said she wanted to write a book that you could turn to any page and find it accessible. For one thing, she said she was abandoning quotation marks to streamline the typography and make the page as simple and readable as possible. Really? Personally, as far as I'm concerned, punctuation marks are our friends. Quotation marks in the most economical way signal that we are reading a conversation, and through conventions such as alternating paragraphs tell us this is an exchange between two people. Conventions help readability. Lack of quotation marks tell us we're in literary fiction land of difficult, dense prose beloved of academics--not a readable story the ordinary reader will enjoy. In fact, it has become my policy if an author doesn't use quotation marks to shut the book and back away slowly.

    Why didn't I do that? Because I read this was a celebrated book about the Hispanic-American experience. Cisneros is fairly close to me in age, like me grew up in a big city (Chicago rather than New York) and like me has a Latino background. (Mexican rather than Puerto Rican). In other words, I thought I might identify, recognize commonalities in our experiences that would give me insight into what is accidental and incidental in my family experience and what comes out of being Hispanic, or at least something that took me back to my childhood with my family.

    But really, I didn't last long despite my resolutions--I just hated the book's structure and style so much. Cisnero also says in her introduction that when she wrote this she didn't realize she wasn't writing a novel since she hadn't heard of story cycles. You know what? I still don't think what she wrote was a novel. Not remotely. A novel isn't any work you say it is within two covers. I doubt this is long enough for one. I'd be very surprised if it came to even 30,000 words. That's a novella at best--not a novel. But also a novel represents a certain structure, and I don't think a series of short linked prose poems about a character (Esperanza Cordro) cuts it. Many of the 45 chapters didn't even come to 150 words. (And people think James Patterson is terse!) The prose was rambling, repetitive, and to me, instead of coming across as genuine seemed--oh, the sort of pretentious artificial thing I've seen a thousand times among a certain left-wing literati of all kinds of ethnicities that to me seems the very opposite of diverse yet seems to define it among many. Yeah, I totally believe this is often assigned in schools. Maybe that accounts for its bestseller status. I didn't for a moment believe this was the first person voice of a young teen girl coming of age. (That it was written by someone attending an elite poetry workshop as told in the introduction? That I believe.)

    So yeah, so not something I enjoyed or that matched the hype in the blurbs and back cover.

  6. Jessica Jessica says:

    The description on goodreads describes this as a novel. It is not a novel. It isn't a collection of stories either. The word is vignette--snapshots of significant moments, people, in young Esperanza's day-to-day life, sprinkled with her understanding that she will leave this House on Mango Street, and the Houses not on Mango Street that could be on Mango Street, and write, but that Mango Street will never leave her. There is no central plot line or conflict. Some characters go as quick as we meet them, while others linger throughout the book, or pop in here and there. It could be a journal, if Esperanza were a real girl writing in Chicago. But while the vignette style of the book lacks the conventions of short stories or a novel, The House on Mango Street shares one thing with those more traditional literary fiction forms: by the end of the book, Esperanza is changed. The snapshots she's stepped through and documented on paper have opened her eyes in a new way and she sees new avenues for her future. She's transformed from a child to a young adult.
    Each vignette is different and entertaining. Some sad, some funny, some dreamy, some fierce. I was 16 when my grandmother gave me this book for Christmas, and I think it rejuvenated my love for reading books, GOOD BOOKS. I'd been stuck on novels for school and Mary Higgins Clark since I turned 12 and reading Cisnernos led me to college to study English literature. No joke.
    Also, though I already knew I wanted to be a writer, this book opened my eyes to the excitement and versatility of voice in fiction. The writer's use of a young first person point of view as the voice through to convey the often difficult, unsavory realities in the adult world appealed to me greatly. Subsequently, I've been drawn to using this style of POV ever since.

  7. Duane Duane says:

    Partly biographical, partly fiction, this wonderful book by Sandra Cisneros is an influential coming of age story that is still being used in schools today. Cisneros, born in Chicago in 1954 to Mexican parents, an only girl with 7 brothers, experienced a transient early childhood as the family moved back and forth from Chicago to Mexico. But when she was 11 they settled down and bought a house in the Humboldt Park area of Chicago, predominantly Puerto Rican, and it was from her life experiences there she drew the ideas for her stories in The House on Mango Street. As a child she experienced the inequalities that were connected to her culture, her gender, and her poor working class family. Nevertheless, she persisted, and these experiences come to life in the character of Esperanza Cordero. They are told in little vignettes, short stories with a poetic feel to them. This book reminded me in many ways of Jacqueline Woodson's, Brown Girl Dreaming. I think this one is in that must read category. 4.5 stars.

  8. Fergus Fergus says:

    This little book is simply a marvellous miracle of growing up absurd and Hispanic in the Spanish-speaking poor section of the Windy City.

    Its warm, uncluttered and sheer heartfelt humanity is a pure delight!

    You know, when you’re living on a small fixed income that keeps falling behind with the inflationary times we live with, you cut corners.

    You make do with only what you can afford.

    And that teaches the narrator’s Dad to be practical and to stick to the tried and true ways of frugal family living. And it teaches her Mom to be doting and give amply of the little unsupervised freedoms that should come freely to a little kid.

    What it teaches the narrator and her little sister is seeing the whole vast universe in the awesome grain of sand that is their immediate neighbourhood.

    But, for Ms Cisneros, it causes the craving to capture that simplicity, that wonderful childhood pure immediacy, that magic of being very young and untarnished and not knowing or caring much about the adult world except as it affords her opportunities for wonder - to capture that beautiful world for us, in print.

    And she does that.

    Exceptionally well.

    The poor in spirit, like Ms Cisneros, inherit the EARTH.

    And all the immense riches of being poor and never knowing it.

    Just REVELLING in a child’s basic Freedom.

    The real world, as we adults know it, is a constricted world of bizarre rules and constant electronic surveillance.

    But it is not that to an innocent child.

    And these impoverished sisters are thrown, as Cisneros was, into a world that neither listens much to them or appreciated their wisdom:

    And so they are thus thrown to their own free devices -

    Which, being quite ingenuous and poor in spirit,

    Are to them The Infinite Wealth of Little Princesses.

  9. Kate Kate says:

    (Original pub date: 1984)
    This is another one of those reading list classics that I figured I should try. Especially since it's really short! ;) The book consists entirely of vignettes from the author's childhood in a poor section of Chicago. The writing is beautiful and spare - no vignette is longer that 2 or 3 pages (and the font is huge and widely spaced). It reads like poetry, really - the words are potent and evocative rather than exhaustively descriptive.

    My reading of this book actually had some unexpected bonus material. I picked my copy up at a library used book sale in Maine, and the previous owner appears to have been a slightly dim-witted 8th or 9th grader who felt obliged to write inane comments in all the margins. When the author describes her annoyance at a tag-along little sister who just doesn't get it, the margins shout, Is Nenny retarded? An odd neighbor gets the same treatment: Is Ruthie retarded? By the time we get to the author's lovely description of her own weakness and vulnerability, a comparison between her and the skinny trees in front of her house, we've graduated to, Eating disorder??? Why is she so thin?

    Sigh. Pop psychology has clearly killed future generations' ability to process art. RIP, intelligent thought.

  10. Alex Alex says:

    I had the opportunity to meet Sandra in one of her book readings and I was so overcome with emotions I was part babbling, part crying and part laughing with joy. I had to thank her because there was finally someone in the literary world that understood me and was able to tell stories that were similar to mine growing up as a Mexican in Chicago. I adore this book because I finally felt like I wasn't alone! I've seen so many stereotypes of hispanic people and I never felt like I identified with any of them. I'm just a simple first-generation Mexican-American girl trying to figure out the balance between my parent's culture and the American one.