Throwback Thursday is a weekly meme hosted by The Housework Can Wait and Never Too Fond of Books. We choose a book we remember fondly and recommend to our adoring readers to add to their To Read Pile. Plus, we get to link up and all give our fellow bloggers some comment love. Win-Win! This week, and for several weeks following, I am going to test my hypothesis about required reading for high school English, and it is this:
If you go back and read it as an adult, you will probably like it.
I encourage you to return to the classroom with fresh eyes and read the classics for the pure joy of reading. You might actually like the novel without having to think about the homework.
This week, I am featuring Sandra Cisneros’s The House on Mango Street. This book gets a bad rap from students because it slips in between genres – it’s not really a novel, not really poetry, mostly fiction, notably autobiographical. It’s a tiny little slip of a book, but it contains a powerful punch.
The House on Mango Street is a series of vignettes, detailing the life of Esperanza Cordero and her life on Mango Street in her Chicago neighborhood. The vignettes can almost all be read separately, each providing a vivid sketch of one moment in Esperanza’s life. Students complain about this book, saying there’s no plot or timeline. They don’t like that “nothing happens.” This is because the vignettes offer insight into Esperanza’s life, yet they can seem unconnected at first. However, the beauty of the language wins the readers over. Every time. Cisneros is funny, honest, engaging, colorful.
In the first vignette, Esperanza describes the actual house on Mango Street and how she and her family came to live there. They hastily moved out from their old place because their landlord refused to fix the pipes. The house on Mango Street was not the house of her dreams, the one her parents described with their hopeful wishing, one with real stairs, “like the houses on T.V.” No, instead, her new house is “small and red with tight steps in front and the windows so small you’d think they were holding their breath.” Seriously, can’t you just see that house, the windows holding their breath?
These sketches capture life on Mango Street with vivid character descriptions for everyone in Esperanza’s life: her mother’s hair smelled “like the warm smell of bread before you bake it.” Esperanza and her sister laughing “like a pile of dishes breaking.” Other chapters offer poignant insights into Esperanza’s thoughts, “In English my name means hope. In Spanish it means too many letters. It means sadness, it means waiting.” Overall, the book is about belonging, finding home, dreaming, family.
You need to read it soon, and please take your time reading it.