The House on Mango Street
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313 of 332 people found the following review helpful
on January 23, 2001
I read some reviews for this book and I could not believe how underated it is and how many people didn't understand it. Some people say that it is just a collection of random thoughts, but that is not the case. You see, this book a whole story and instead of having chapters of episodes, it contains "vignettes" which the dictionary defines as "a short descrioptive literary sketch". Each vignette contains an important part of the story. The whole story describes the thoughts, feelings, and meories of Esperanza, an hispanic girl living in the poverty corner of the city, with dreams to escape her world. At the same time, she grows up and starts to leave her childhood, while learning about the fears and dangers of the world she never knew of before. Becomeing an adult turns out to be a hard challenge. The first vignette called "House On Mango Street" is meant to describe the setting. The second "Hairs" describes the looks and characteristics of the characters. The third called "Boys and Girls" tells the difference between genders, which is important because the story deals with men and women. The following vignette called "My Name" paints the image of self and the feelings of hope and the future. Therefore, these vignettes are not mere collections of random thoughts and uneducated language, but a poetic story with a well drawn setting, characterization, and gripping tone. Even though the story evolves around hispanics, this is a book for all races. The poverty and dreams of home remind me of the experiences of African-Americans and Chinese, as well as Caucasians. When I was in a Creative Writing class, we wrote many vignettes and if you are a student in Creative Writing you HAVE to get this book and share it with your class and teacher. It will help you understand the importance writing free verses, for this is the best example of vignettes I have ever seen. The voice of the author does not sound profesional or too fancy, but like the ordinary words people say today. it is a story of our time and a tale for all. My only complaint is that it was too short! I wanted to know more about what Esperanza does and her wishes. I also wanted to know what happened to her after the story. Even so, it is pretty plain to see that Esperanza learned how to escape from her cruel world, unlike the people who never knew where she went. I haven't seen such an exquisite story of our modern times since I read the "Joy Luck Club" about two years ago. If you want to read a beautiful story about growing up, living life, and with musical poetry, you must read this book.
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89 of 93 people found the following review helpful
on December 9, 1999
I teach English to speakers of other languages at the high school level. For the past five years I have been reading _The House on Mango Street_ with some of my classes. Not only is it the highlight of the year for me, but for my students as well.
Cisneros's magnificently lyrical prose forces us to see the world through the perspective of an adolescent Latina. Don't let the simple sentences and short chapters fool you. Beneath the surface lies a rich network of themes: poverty, child abuse, rape, spousal abuse, the importance of education, hypocrisy, and a host of others.
If you're looking for a linear story with a clearly defined plot, look elsewhere. Cisneros paints in broad strokes, and her canvas is multi-colored. Seen from up close, each chapter is a self-contained beauty. Seen from a distance, the chapters come together to reveal a masterpiece of Latino literature; it is by turns a feminist novel, a bildungsroman, and a chronicle of the will's triumph. The book has affected me profoundly, and with each new reading I find more to admire about it.
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58 of 61 people found the following review helpful
A series of vignettes, rather than a structured novel, House on Mango Street is Sandra Cisneros's semi-autobiographical account of growing up Chicana in a poor area of Chicago. Esperanza Cordero, at age eleven, has already discovered that being able to communicate in English is a key to worldly success, and she has begun recording stories of her neighborhood, friends, and everyday life, hoping one day to become a writer. Recreating one year of her life, she vividly depicts the children's fierce loyalties to each other, their alienation from mainstream society, and their goals in life, sadly limited by the culture and its low expectations for girls and women.

Maintaining a childish innocence, Esperanza's first person account reveals her growing awareness of alternatives to her Mango Street existence. She is saddened that her friend Sally, an abused child, never escapes, marrying very early ("in a state where children can marry before they have finished eighth grade"). Alicia, an older, highly motivated friend, however, works to achieve an education and spends long hours traveling to and from school so that she can move beyond Mango Street. Her prescient Aunt Lupe tells Esperanza to "Keep writing. It will keep you free," and a psychic tells her that she must work hard and write so that she can "come back for those who cannot make it out on their own."

Dealing with everyday issues of maturity, a growing awareness of her own sexuality, and her resentment of a world which does not value women, Esperanza is an astute observer, telling stories filled with the humor, wonder, and sometimes heartbreak. As she tells about innocently riding in a stolen car; about the death of her friend Marin's boyfriend whose Mexican parents will never hear of his death because no one knows where to find them; about being assaulted while waiting for her friend Sally, who never answers her pleas for help; about Mamacita, who never leaves her apartment because she is cannot communicate in English; and about her own mother's inability to travel on public transportation because she is afraid, she recreates Mango Street with all its limitations--and excitements.

Like a red balloon which wants to escape its anchor, Esperanza dreams of having a better home, a better life, and greater opportunities. "I have decided not to grow up tame," she says, but she is firmly anchored to Mango Street through her experiences, and these, she discovers ironically, will eventually become the source material for her writing. Through Mango Street, Esperanza defines herself, but through her writing, she will set herself free. n Mary Whipple
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69 of 81 people found the following review helpful
on January 11, 2006
Decent. That one word describes this book- decent. Not bad, not necessarily good, but decent. And unlike many people, my problems with the book is not in the vignettes. I think that each vignette helps the story as a whole (well, most of them, anyway). They all tell you an important part of a year this girl spends at the house on Mango Street.

No, my problems lay with the book's portrayal of men. I'll be blunt, almost every single male character in the book either abuses the women or rapes them. Even the main character is raped at a carnival. Now, I know that it's supposed to represent "real life", but in reality, not every single man in the world is evil. Girls come to school black and blue from their abusive fathers, bums in the streets ask people to kiss them, etc. Not even elderly men are safe from Cisneros's wrath! In one vignette, an elderly man forces Esperanza to kiss him on the mouth. There's a man across the street who has prostitutes come to his house. And all the while the girls are portrayed as being completely innocent.

This skewed logic and obvious enmity toward men makes Sandra Cisneros's book impossimble for me- as a boy- to enjoy. Maybe girls will like it better- but for me, I'd like a fairer representation of the sexes.
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40 of 46 people found the following review helpful
HALL OF FAMEon January 19, 2004
"The House on Mango Street," by Sandra Cisneros, is told in the first person by Esperanza, a daughter in an urban Latino family. The "About the Author" section at the end of the book notes that Cisneros was born in Chicago, the daughter of a Mexican father and a Mexican-American mother. Cisneros tells Esperanza's story in a series of 44 short vignettes.
Cisneros' writing is really beautiful--full of wonderfully vivid imagery. Many of the short chapters are less than a full page in length and read like prose poems. Along the way we learn of Esperanza's family, neighbors, school, rites of passage, and dreams of the future. Cisneros writes with a moving appreciation of beauty, hope, and tragedy; "Mango Street" is a richly realized world.
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106 of 129 people found the following review helpful
on October 9, 2000
For several years now, I couldn't swing the proverbial dead hedgehog without knocking out someone (uaually an English instuctor) whose devotion to this book was nothing short of fanatical. Consequently, I dutifully read the book, hoping that it might be appropriate for my freshman composition classes. If any of my students are reading this, don't worry, I would not subject you to this tedious, pretentious pseudo-poetic novella.
Rest assured, though, thou Cisneros acolytes, I "get it," but I do not want it. Ms. Cisneros' style is all she has to offer in this hackneyed theme of growing up as a poor, marginalized immigrant. So many others, such as Frank McCourt, Hanif Kureshi, V.S. Naipaul, and even Mario Puzo and have written in brilliant linguistic style on the coming-of-age ethnic dilemma, and they have all done it with more substance and lucidity than the ostensible kidspeak style window dressing that Cisneros chose to hide her lack of verve and narrative appeal.
On the personal side, as a woman of Hispanic extraction, I shudder to think that Cisneros has become a literary model for part of my culture. But ah, yes! What about that Latina slot in the reading list? I suggest Laura Esquivel's *Like Water For Chocolate* for its splendid magic realism, genuinely sympathetic -- yet naturally flawed -- characters, and intensity of action. Now, that's *style*!
I read most of the students' reviews of *The House On Mango Street* on amazon.com and empathize with the majority. They "get it," too and see right through it. Unfortunately, too many teachers go with whatever is trendy and underestimate their students' insights. I can assure you after many years of teaching, students can smell a turkey (no matter how well dressed) from the next area code, and best of all, they are unaffected by the barrages of critical hype to which we so often fall prey.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on December 7, 2000
"The House on Mango Street" by Sandra Cisneros is a marvelous book. The story is written about Cisneros' childhood memories. She tells the readers about her childhood in short stories. They are rich in detail and have a great deal of figurative language and good vocabulary. The short stories tell of a young Chicana's family, friends, and neighbors and enable the reader to see the young girl growing up and maturing. If you are looking for a good book to read, I strongly suggest "The House on Mango Street." The "House on Mango Street" has a minimal plot, but the pure simplicity of this book is what makes it so powerful. It is about a family, which is not rich, but tries to provide what they consider to be the best for the family. Regardless how hard the parents try, their children are unhappy with what they have. Esperanza is a member of this family. She has many dreams. She has dreams of having a beautiful house with trees and a yard. At the beginning of the book her family moves into the house on Mango Street. The house, while in poor condition, provides the family with more space and more independence than they have ever had. The rented house allows them to dream of someday having a house of their own. The book follows her and a group of her friends and neighbors as they confront issues of sexuality, domestic violence, death, creativity, friendship, and racism. Her friends marry, move away, suffer abuse, and have children. Her family sees deaths and struggles with poverty. I found "The House on Mango Street" enjoyable. I applaud its underlying principle that we can and should strive to be more than our sometimes cruel and unemotional society would like to think we are. Although many have criticized the author for her grammar and usage mistakes, they were put there to illustrate the characters, not to show how sloppy she can be in proofreading her work. This is a well-constructed book, one that is sure to be around for many generations. "The House on Mango Street" was a very enjoyable book. I would recommend it to anyone. The book has many useful stories to which almost anyone can relate. It teaches very valuable lessons. Esperanza realizes that while she may leave Mango Street someday, she will always be obligated to come back to help those who are not able to leave. This is a very strong message that many people need to hear. I enjoyed reading "The House on Mango Street." I hope that many other people enjoy the book as much as I did.
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35 of 43 people found the following review helpful
on May 30, 2000
The book that I recently read and recommend, The House on Mango Street, is written by Sandra Cisneros. This book contains 44 short stories called vignettes. These vignettes are narrated by a little girl by the name of Esperanza Cordero, who just moved with her family to Mango Street (in the barrio). She hates this house on Mango Street because it is not a "real" house, like the one she sees on TV. Esperanza is forced to realize that she does not belong to the race or class of people who live in such houses. Sandra Cisneros, recipient of two NEA Fellowships for writing and a Dobie-Paisano Fellowship, through Esperanza tells about the ghosts (of poverty, sexism and racism) inside that haunt her. This book takes an honest look at these issues as faced by Mexican-American women. It also talks about the importance of education among women in order to succeed in life and have an equal say in a society dominated by men. House on Mango Street is full of characters that lack power - socially, politically, economically and sexually. This book is not a story of despair, but of hope, which is what Esperanza means in English. In order to see and understand the affects of being the only daughter out of seven kids in a Mexican-American culture and having your family move around a great deal and not be able to keep your friends, one must read this book. Not only is the language of this book simple, but the short stories are so short that they allow a person to read this book in many sittings. This makes the book much more easier to read, understand and enjoy among young readers. One of the main human concerns that is developed by Sandra Cisneros is the sense of belonging somewhere. Esperanza never feels like she belongs anywhere. This is due to the fact that her family is always moving from one place to another. She never gets a chance to interact with the friends that she makes as they move on to another place. In order for the Corderos to achieve their dreams, they must struggle against both poverty and racism. Another reason why she does not have a feeling for belonging somewhere is the fact that the house on Mango Street is in such a bad condition that she is afraid to admit that she lives there. She is afraid to call it her own house because this is not the kind of house that she hoped to live in. She compares her house with the ones that she sees on TV. This attitude of embarrassment tends to pull her back from progressing in life, especially when she was embarrassed by a nun. It was the nun, not someone from the barrio, who teaches Esperanza to be ashamed of her house. This makes Esperanza vow that someday she will have a beautiful house and offer help and shelter in her attic to passing bums because she knows how it is to be without a house. A real house that would give her privacy, space of her own where she could forge her identity, a place that she could be proud of and it would be a physical evidence that she belonged somewhere. This book is highly recommended by me for young readers because it teaches young readers about poverty and its disadvantages. From this lesson they will realize the importance and value of education and equality for all. Another thing that they will learn from this book is how the protagonist discovers that power and peace come from recognizing one's place in and one's duty to the community. The award-winning author makes it a great book to read also.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on December 18, 2001
The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros is a wonderfully written novel about a young Latino girl growing up in Chicago. Instead of writing the book as one long story she tells the story of Esperanza with short stories, written like a diary. Cisneros separates each story by going to a new chapter. The book follows Esperanza from when she is a very young girl until she is a young adult in high school. Cisneros does a wonderful job of starting out writing from the point of view of a young child and then gradually alters the writing to eventually reflect that of a teenager. Esperanza's growing up experience gives her many convictions. She does not want to live on Mango Street and be poor. Her goal in life is to succeed and then come back and help the people that continue to live on Mango Street. By observing the people around her she decided she does not want a man to run her life. Through Esperanza's experiences and convictions Cisneros brings up many of the hardships that immigrants undergo moving into the United States. As well as poverty Cisneros bring up the language barrier and adjusting to a different culture. She also depicts much of the Latino culture, examples being the role of women and the importance of family. The beginning of the novel could be difficult for some people to get into because the chapters start out so short and do not really flow into one another very well, but I would urge you to stick with is as the book is well worth it. I would highly recommend this book not just for entertainment purposes but also if you are interested in learning more about Latinos.
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122 of 158 people found the following review helpful
on February 2, 2004
The negative reviews of Cisneros' book come mostly from teenagers unable to express just why they remain unimpressed and bored by it. Their reaction is typical of young readers: they know what they like, they know what they don't like, and there is very little ground in the middle. This makes them perfect readers, but poor reviewers.
Allow me to help.
The reason you don't like this book is because it is not very good. The reason it is not very good is because Cisneros does not know what a good book is. She knows only what good writing is; and good writing alone is boring, just as you thought.
So why doesn't your English teacher know this? Because English majors, for the most part, give up their appreciation for story and wonder and character no later than their sophomore year of undergraduate. In the place of story, they've been taught to study theme; in the place of wonder, they've been taught to worship relevance; and in the place of characters, they've been taught to honor writers.
And that is why you had to read this horrible little book.
Cisneros writes to impress other writers whom she admires, or the "Olympians," as she calls them in interviews. She is not interested in the opinion of the general reader because, as she states, readers "don't know bad writing from good."
Yes, that was an insult.
Of course, she might be right. You and I may not know bad writing from good. But then again, who cares? We do know good books from bad, and in which category to put Mango Street.
Like so many of the professionals she admires, Cisneros writes not to entertain, uplift, challenge, or enlighten. It isn't the story or characters she intends us to remember, but she herself, the writer, the little girl who finally got back at everyone she grew up with by tattling on them in print. Even better, she's been adopted by the family of self-admiring elites she so envied, the ones who would never have adopted her parents or siblings or schoolmates because they wouldn't be special enough.
Yes, Cisneros is finally special. And no doubt she takes great satisfaction in writing so well that high school kids don't like it.
The literary sin you've discovered is self-indulgence. This is what happens when a writer, disinterested in the world, chooses to explore herself in front of an audience. When we say yuck, she says we're prude. When we say we don't get it, she says we're dumb.
PS - To read more bad poetry disguised as experimental prose, look in your English teacher's bottom left drawer, behind the box of Wheat Thins.
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