The House on Mango Street, by Sandra Cisneros, was published in 1984 by Vintage.
I like the vignette style of writing better than the poetry style of writing, and The House on Mango Street weaves the vignettes together into a (mostly) cohesive story of Esperanza and her neighbors. The stories are mainly about Esperanza and the people around her, though a few of them are more about her feelings or observations.
I say mostly cohesive because the jump from topic to topic, and the seemingly random stories about clouds or trees, break up the overarching story of Esperanza. “But those stories are important to her life and character,” you might say. And you’re probably right. If I were studying this book, exploring it for its literary quality and experience, I might agree. But reading it as I did, to experience it for the first time without really delving into it, some of it seems disjointed.
The vignettes are beautifully written, even some of the more random ones, and Cisnero’s description of a Latina girl growing up in a poor neighborhood and her experiences with her family, her neighbors, the people she meets, are striking and vivid. Many of the vignettes end in a tantalizing way, hinting but never showing, while others reveal a darker side of things that are never further addressed or resolved. This is “slices of life” at its most realistic: the things people notice, day to day, the interesting stories they hear, are highlighted. Perhaps that’s why The House on Mango Street also feels disjointed at times: people’s observations and thoughts aren’t always smoothly connected together.
I can see why this book is put on high school reading lists. It was one of my high school’s picks for summer reading, though I read The Joy Luck Clubinstead. Though I can’t say I really liked the book, I can complement its beautiful writing, its portrayal of Latino culture, and its insight. The House on Mango Street is a book that should be savored, and while I didn’t have the time to savor it, I can at least see the potential in returning to it and taking the time to soak it all in.