What Sandra Cisneros started as a memoir turned into a much larger fictional story based on her life, her past and her present, when she was twenty-one years old. She was…
“trying as best I could to write the kind of book I have never seen in a library or in a school, the kind of book not even my professors could write.”
I love this because so many lit students read the classics and then try to emulate them in their own writing which, although ambitious, doesn’t bring anything new to the table. Sometimes you really should just stick to writing what you know. As soon as she recognized her otherness both as a woman and a Latino, she wanted to use it to write through her unique perspective.
My copy of Mango Street was a tenth anniversary edition and in the introduction she says yes, in some ways she is the main character Esperanza, but so is the reader. And she urges the reader, “You cannot forget who you are.” I love that although she’s writing about being different, her message in the introduction is inclusive to all readers.
Mango Street is compromised of a series of vignettes to paint a portrait of Mango Street, the fictional neighborhood in Chicago where Esperanza is growing up. My favorite piece is called “Those Who Don’t”. It’s a powerful, short piece about the fear that those who don’t live on Mango Street feel when they stumble up on it, because they don’t know that those who look dangerous or scary are actually harmless. Vice versa, when the inhabitants of Mango Street find themselves outside the neighborhood, they are grasped by the same fear. Even if you have never experience this you will feel like you’ve been there the way she describes these moments that make up Esperanza’s life on Mango Street.
If you haven’t yet read this book I would highly recommend it as it is a relatively short read and one which all readers should engage in at some point