Where I share my love of books with reviews, features, giveaways and memes. Family and needlepoint are thrown in from time to time.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros (Book Review)

Title: The House on Mango Street
Author: Sandra Cisneros
Genre: Fiction/Short stories

I didn't know whether or not to include the first sentence here, as it is a short book with short stories - but it seemed appropriate given the title of the book. So here it is: We didn't always live on Mango Street.

I am not a short story lover, and probably would not have read this book other than I needed a quick read for the New Classics Challenge which ends in a few weeks. I am not even sure that these would classify as short stories. They brought to mind journal entries that a young girl/teenager may make. Does anyone remember back to a time in school where you had to keep a journal that you wrote in daily as an assignment, but the subject matter was your choice? Then think of having it published - and you would have a book of this type. There is a progression through the book though, and you begin to see how the author is maturing -- even as the stories begin to get slightly longer and subject matter of some of them more serious. The book also showed me a different perspective than the one that I had growing up in predominately white, small-town Iowa.

Esperanza (narrator of stories) lives in a small red house on Mango Street with one bedroom and one bathroom for her Mama, Papa and 3 brothers/sisters. Even so, you see that it is an improvement over their previous homes, as this is not an apartment and they do not have a landlord. This home is theirs. I am just going to share with you a couple of stories that stuck with me.

The Family of Little Feet - A family gave Esperanza and her sisters/friends a bag of shoes. These were lemon shoes, red shoes, and dancing shoes that were pale blue but used to be white. The little girls pranced all over the neighborhood taking turns with the different shoes until an old bum tells them they are pretty. He asks one of them, named Rachel, if she will kiss him for a dollar. Esperanza grabs her hand and they run all the way home. They hide the shoes and don't play with them again.

Louie, His Cousin and His Other Cousin - Basically about a boy who shows up with a Cadillac. He gives all the neighborhood kids rides in it. The police show up and he makes them all get out and then tries to get away. But the police catch him and arrest him. They all wave to him as he is being driven away.

And now, here is what it says in the book: Ostensibly, The House on Mango Street provides a framework for the first tentative writings of a young girl finding herself by recording her own feelings about the world around her. But in a deeper sense, the book chronicles in a highly poetic style, the psychological and social development of a writer who struggles to derive emotional and creative sustenance where material and educational resources are absent. Her sensitive portrayal enchants us and reaffirms our belief that art and talent can survive, even under the most adverse conditions.

Like I said in the beginning, I am not a lover of short stories. I am sure there is much that can be gleaned from these, but I was not reading them critically, to obtain any higher meaning. They tended to be depressing, showing the not so savory side of (assuming) Chicago. The last few stories showed a desire on the part of the narrator to want to get out of Mango Street, but she always knew that no matter where she went, she would come back for those who were not as lucky as she, and were not able to get out.


Isabel said...

Kudos for trying anyway.

Congrats for getting out of your comfort zone.

Amanda said...

I heard that these weren't supposed to be short stories, but one whole novella. That those were chapters instead of stories.

I read this book last summer and couldn't stand it, and I usually love classics. The narrator felt so condescending to me.


Anonymous said...

I think it's fantastic you are stretching yourself to read books out of your comfort zone. I'm like you. I don't usually read short stories.

Staci said...

I really liked how you reviewed this book. Short stories is something that I haven't spent any time with during my life of reading but I thought this year I would make some room for them.

I really enjoyed your blog. Found you by way of Caribousmom!!

I love to cross stitch! It's fun and relaxing but it takes forever!!

The Bookworm said...

this sounds good, I dont mind short stories.
great review :)

caribookscoops said...

I love The House on Mango Street, but if your not into short stories or short chapters like this than yeah it may not be your favorite. I like this style of writing. One of things I like best is that Esperanza is Hope. I also really liked the author's Woman Hollering Creek, which is more for adults.


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