Friday, January 22, 2010

The House on Mango Street (Sandra Cisneros)

It is not cheating if I review books that I have to read for school. It is especially not cheating if a book I read for school ends up being pretty good. It is super definitely not cheating if the book is short and really easy to get through, thus facilitating a quick and concise review. Or if I say so.


The House on Mango Street is technically a novel, but in reality it's a collection of super short stories, all revolving around a young girl named Esperanza Cordero. Esperanza lives with her family in a poor neighborhood in 1970s Chicago, and spends most of her time going to the Catholic school down the street and playing with the girls who live on her block. Through her eyes, we see a picture of not only life in the lower class, but of childhood in general, and how kids can be innocent and mature at the same time. Esperanza tells stories about Rafaela, whose husband never lets her out of the house, and Sally, who is so beautiful that her father beats her for being such a burden and attracting boys. Esperanza sees the world not as something that must be blindly accepted, though, but as a thing that can be molded if one wants something badly enough. She imagines herself leaving her small house on Mango Street someday to go off to college and maybe be a writer. It doesn't matter how many kids in her neighborhood have already dropped out of school, or gotten pregnant, or both. Esperanza understands that she doesn't have to be forced into a life she doesn't want just because everyone around her says that's how it is. Despite all of this, The House on Mango Street is never a preachy book, and definitely doesn't judge at all. Esperanza is who she is, and wants what she wants, but the same is true for all of the other characters. Some of them succeed and some are never heard from again, but each story feels real.


The House on Mango Street
by Sandra Cisneros

This book doesn't have much to it—it's barely 100 pages—but that's actually one of its strengths. It doesn't overburden the reader. In and out, point made. I like that in a novel.

I like the vignettes, and I really like that most of them are only a page or two, but it is just another story about growing up in poverty. Esperanza is given a clear voice, which is always helpful, but I wouldn't call it groundbreaking writing.

The rating here gets a boost by the smoothness of the read, but it comes at the price of a lack of investment. There's no real plot, and at times only a vague notion that Esperanza wants to move away some day. It's well-written, and enjoyable, but it's something you could easily get through in an afternoon without much thought.


Not bad for a book I read for school, right? Hopefully we break out of these 7's soon and find some really great—or really terrible—books. Keep reading, Genoshans!

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