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The House on Mango Street
The House on Mango Street
Sandra Cisneros is a Chicana (Mexican-American woman) who grew up in Chicago during the 1960s. THE HOUSE ON MANGO STREET is her first novel, and it chronicles a year in the life of the adolescent main character, Esperanza. Like Cisneros, Esperanza lives in a Latino neighborhood in Chicago. The story is of the struggles, joys, and growing pains unique to a Mexican-American girl.

The novel is comprised of a series of vignettes, some of which are very poetic (in both form and tone). Through them we experience Esperanza's relationships with family, friends, and neighbors. These relationships contribute to Esperanza's transformation from innocent child to self-conscious adolescent. She learns about gender discrimination and double standards; she experiments with her budding sexuality and others' reactions to it; she develops a growing awareness of racial, ethnic, and language barriers, and she uncovers the power of writing. Esperanza's initial reaction to her heightened awareness is to leave the house on Mango Street for a home of her own. By the novel's end, however, she has come to realize that there will always be a piece of her in her old neighborhood, to which she must return in order to help the women she has had to leave behind.

THE HOUSE ON MANGO STREET has had its share of critics. Some Mexican Americans feel that Esperanza's desire to leave the neighborhood is a betrayal of Mexican-American culture by Cisneros; to assimilate into American culture, Esperanza must abandon her Mexican heritage. Other critics similarly argue that Cisneros's novel perpetuates negative stereotypes about Mexican Americans, particularly men. Still others contend that the feminism displayed by Cisneros is a white woman's feminism that does not reflect the realities of being a Chicana. Such reviews notwithstanding, THE HOUSE ON MANGO STREET remains a staple of American literature.

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The American Novel