55 of 58 people found the following review helpful
"I am a red balloon tied to an anchor.",
This review is from: The House on Mango Street (Hardcover)
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