by Sandra Cisneros
Through a series of brief vignettes, Cisneros tells the story of a young Latino girl growing up in a poor city neighborhood. She mentions her siblings, how she hates her shabby little house, all the various characters in the neighborhood- those she's afraid of, admires, thinks are crazy, whatever. How women are oppressed, men often abusive, love and security something everyone searches for in their own way. She talks about how she doesn't want to belong there, wants to leave and find something more. The short book is like a collective snapshot of her neighborhood and some thoughts, all slapped together like a collage. One you wouldn't get much from unless you already knew the stories behind the pictures. Because, even though so many readers have loved this book (and apparently it's taught in schools across the country!)
While I did sometimes like the imagery Cisneros used (other times it just made no sense) it all ran through my head like water through a sieve. Most of the characters in the book are mentioned once and hardly again, so it's difficult to get a sense of any of them as people. Even when some of them showed up again, I hardly recognized them. Each little chapter is so short- barely more than a single page- I never felt like I got much meat out of them. The story doesn't really progress, it's just a collection of moments- which works okay sometimes, but didn't here for me. I got to the end and wondered what I'd just read. Nothing stuck. I didn't even get a sense of place at all. Turned back through the pages and not once did I see it mentioned that the neighborhood was in Chicago, like the back cover says. Where does it say that?
I feel like a dissenter here, but I just don't get what's so great about this book. Maybe I read it too fast. Maybe it's better in the original Spanish- although my copy doesn't mention a translator, so I wonder if the author wrote this version into English herself? Anyhow, my disappointment with The House on Mango Street certainly doesn't encourage me to try anything else by this author.
Rating: 2/5 ........ 110 pages, 1984
more opinions at:
The Zen Leaf
Ready When You Are, C.B.