Radikal Readings: The House on Mango Street

“I make a story for my life, for each step my brown shoe takes.”

Returning to a piece of work that so profoundly changed your life is like re-visiting your past – a childhood home, favorite frilly dresses, warm cups of milky afternoon tea with mom – moments you didn’t know you would cherish until they were just memories.

I read The House on Mango Street in my tenth grade English class with Miss Padilla, not knowing how life-altering it would be. I relished this book, described as a novel, but a series of snapshots of significant moments, people, and happenings in young Esperanza Cordero’s day-to-day life. Esperanza, a young Mexican-American girl living in Chicago. Like Cisneros’ Caramelothere is no central plot line or conflict, yet by the end of the book Esperanza is changed – transformed from a girl to a young adult.

Cisneros paints a world that you can’t help but feel caught up in. The sweet smells of the kitchen, the warmth of a hug, the feel of worn down shoes – all the things that are woven together to define who we are and who we become. It leaves you nostalgic for your childhood.

The House on Mango Street is so unique to me because it’s the first book I fell in love with so completely that I knew I wanted to be a writer. The prose made me enamored with the way words could be strung together so beautifully, creating rhythmic poetry to get lost in. This was the most transformative book I had read, and my 15-year-old self didn’t know it at the time, but I was changed forever. For that, I can’t thank Sandra Cisneros enough. It’s lovely to know that I can always return and feel at home once again in her words.

“They will not know that I have gone away to come back. For the ones I’ve left behind. For the ones who cannot out.”

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