Sandra Cisneros is mostly known for her poetry, but she has a novel – The House on Mango Street as well… It was first published in 1984 and has been partially based on her own life.
It follows Esperanza, who’s family moves to a new place and the girl meets people, has adventures, feelings and slowly grows up, experiencing poverty and seeing the problems of less fortunate people around her. It is based on the situations the author lived through in Latino community, which I am not familiar with, but after reading this book, it doesn’t seem that it has much differences from any other poor part of a town, so I would like to say that it is about the poor and unhappy that always want something.
I started to read the book with introduction that I wanted to skip, yet I felt guilty for skipping intro for such a small book, so, I had to read it and… it was an amazing – the author tells about herself and how she started to write this book, while still being in school and her reasoning (and rebellion) behind the first stories that came together in this novel. It was honest and made so much sense that I almost started to cry while reading this intro and expected the book to be amazing. But it wasn’t.
The narrator is Esperanza, who is only a child, when she starts to narrate the book, so there are a lot of mistakes and the writing is childish. Later, as Esperanza grows into her teenage years, her writing becomes more complicated. Although this is obviously done on purpose, so many people have noted in their reviews that they hated it and that book wasn’t edited (or that the author couldn’t possibly have master’s degree), I felt like the writing did help me get into the kid’s skin and without saying how old Esperanza is, experience the story as a child. I am not a fan of mistakes in books, but I honestly felt like this was totally fine, besides not all adults are able to write like children, so that definitely asked for some skill.
The story itself branches out, the main character might be Esperanza, but she has many people around her and the miniature chapters sometimes point out lives of people we have never heard about. What more – these people often are never mentioned again and that makes the book confusing. For a part I did follow the story and branching out, but it was so boring that I just stopped caring, I didn’t want anymore to understand the connections from the branches to trunk and the other way around. I understand that one should flow through the book and take a little break to think between the chapters (hence the spacing in the book), but understanding what you have to do, is not enough to actually do so. So very often I just didn’t care about the people or what happens to them and even if I tried to remind myself that they were (are?) real people, I still couldn’t do it.
Yet the book did bring up some amazing memories (not like cool, but just memories that amazed me) from my childhood – how mostly children divided themselves in two groups (by language) and what kind of adventures and things we had happening for us and feelings between the groups.
It was a ride that did bring up some issues we – as children never saw in our community. But now, when looking back, boy, we had some issues. It also made me remember a moment when I was pushed away from the ‘other’ group, when I wanted to hang out with them, as I sometimes did enjoy the society of both groups (benefits of speaking both languages). And they pushed me away only because my native tongue was different than theirs. It didn’t matter to them that I could speak in their language, they figuratively stamped my face with my nationality and excluded me because of that. Yet, I have to say that I was the only person who has dangling in the middle of both groups, but I never understood, why is it bad that I speak a different language at home than they do. Now, of course I understand the fundamental teachings and parenting that in the big scene pretty much cultivates and relives history when it is long gone and just thinks of millions of lies to sustain the lifestyle and way they have been though to live by their parents.
I loved the message the author tried to pass (she explained it in the introduction) and it was an amazing idea that would help to notice poverty not only in parts of USA and in midst of races and nationalities (and other ways people get divided nowadays), but in whole world and could be adjustable for most of the modern environments and wouldn’t need special background knowledge, because it would be adaptable. Unfortunately it had a great promise, but in reality was chaotic and boring story compilation and you can’t even imagine how hard it is to say this, especially since the introduction moved me so much.
I don’t know to whom I should suggest this book, honestly. It received from me one star on my goodreads page and was not an enjoyable read.
I’ve heard that this book is very popular as mandatory reading in schools. Is that true? Have you read it? Let me know your feelings about the book and writing in the comment section below!