The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros is a story created from forty-four beautifully written vignettes. Opening this book is like opening a window onto Mango Street and breathing in the Chicagoan-Hispanic air. From the window the reader can see and hear the characters that live on Mango Street as they appear, impact and influence Esperanza Cordera on her journey of discovery.
Each vignette is a story with its own message. In "The Family of Little Feet," Esperanza tells of the time she and her friends learn to walk in high heel shoes and the effect of this on men who should know better. At first it appears like innocent fun, then the girls change, the atmosphere changes and danger lies in wait: "It’s Rachel who learns to walk the best all strutted in those magic high heels. She teaches us to cross and uncross our legs, and to run like a double-dutch rope, and how to walk down to the corner so that the shoes talk back to you with every step. Lucy, Rachel, me tee-tottering like so. Down to the corner where the men can’t take their eyes off us. We must be Christmas."
In "Edna's Ruthie," Esperanza takes the reader with her on a miniature journey away from childhood. She moves from acceptance of her not-so-grown-up friend Ruthie - "Ruthie, a tall skinny lady with red lipstick and blue babushka, one blue sock and one green because she forgot, is the only grown-up we know who likes to play" - to trying to fit in when she meets Sally, and finally to betrayal by Sally, leading to a traumatic experience.
Each vignette is perfectly crafted. Cisneros’s writing is accessible to all ages and levels of readers. The vignettes, when read together, tell the full story of Esperanza and how she makes sense of her experiences on Mango Street. These experiences are her guide to what she needs to do to become the person she wants to be, and this ultimately means she must leave Mango Street - in the knowledge it will always pull her back.
About the reviewer
Sally Shaw is a full-time MA Creative Writing Student at Leicester University. She was a nurse for thirty-three years. She writes poetry and is starting to write short stories.