The House on Mango Street
Reviewed By: NinjaUsagi
Review posted: 03/05/04
I'll preface this review by saying that I was required to read it for a class on American Women's Literature. We've been reading authors of diverse backgrounds, like American-Indian, African-American, Asian-American, and Cisneros's Mango Street is from our section on Latina-American authors. I may not have initially read the book out of choice, but I was ultimately pleased by this somewhat short work of fiction. I will do my best to not get too technical from my classnotes.
Mango Street tells the story of a neighborhood through the eyes of its young narrator, Esperanza Cordero. She is young, somewhat naive, but in her the reader is given the chance to relive their own childhood, and also take from the book a fairly innocent view of Esperanza's world. Some scenes, like where a young man everyone knows invites the neighborhood children to take a ride in his new car only to have the police come along and arrest him for stealing the car, and the children simply wave goodbye as he's taken off, provide a mild amount of humor amidst some cleverly disguised deeper issues.
Through Esperanza's opinions and interactions with dozens of characters, Cisneros is able to bring up many issues in the Latina community as well as women's issues. Discussions on class, race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, violence, marriage-- all takes place inside this almost sneaky novel. Esperanza is able to bring up some fairly loaded issues, but her young perspective shows a large amount of innocence even in dire situations. As the novel progresses, Esperanza is forced to grow up somewhat, not that she seems quite as ready to be older like some of her friends are. She has to start coming to grasp with what it means to grow up, to lose her child's perspective, to at least start on her way towards becoming a woman.
Mango Street is a very easy read - 110 pages, but it's broken up into stories/chapters that anywhere from half a page to five pages in length. The language is very simplistic, so the novel just breezes by. One could read this book in one or two evenings. I liked this book; it's been one of my favorites so far in my literature course. I'm sure that the simplicity of the language and relative length of the book helped, but it also had a lot of parts that made you think about larger issues than just the specific examples given. Definitely recommended.