The House on Mango Street

'I am a red balloon,' reflects Esperanza Cordero, 'a balloon tied to an anchor.' The House on Mango Street is the coming-of-age story of Esperanza, a teenage Puerto Rican girl with a big family and huge dreams about escaping her cramped house and impoverished neighbourhood. Initially, we see her preoccupied by her childhood friendships, trying to fit in and obsessing over the things she lacks- Barbies, a pretty pair of shoes, the right food to eat in the school lunchroom (her mother makes her a rice sandwich) but eventually Esperanza transcends the day-to-day realities of Mango Street. Her sick Aunt Lupe tells her, 'Keep writing; it will keep you free.' Esperanza feels guilty about not spending more time with Lupe and being scared of her aunt's illness, but the lesson she learns from Lupe's life and death stay with her. Later, Esperanza makes friends with the beautiful neighbourhood girl Sally, and learns to move beyond her envy of Sally's beauty to feel compassion for her friend's constricted life. We watch Esperanza growing from a child to a woman and learning about the ordinary lives and struggles of the women around her. As she grows more free, she remains conscious of those around her who are unable to leave the neighbourhood, and in the act of documenting the unseen lives of Mango Street, her writing itself becomes an act of understanding and love.
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Sandra Cisneros
Book type: 
United States
Puerto Rico