The story of a young Latina finding her voice, in a house she does not want to live in, on a lively street in Chicago.
Sandra Cisneros doesn’t speak, she sings, lettering pages with beautiful language. Everything about the novella is beautiful, but the language is life-changing. Colorful, choice, every word is measured. The shortness of stories only enhances the power of vignettes. The book goes down Mango Street, through time, and this young girl’s life journey.
Race, class, and gender collide with amazing grace. Cisneros dances around heavy names and labels, and instead focuses on the meat of the matter, as we see through the eyes of a growing girl, Esperanza Cordero. She is a young woman, first and foremost: and Esperanza’s hardest lessons are often learned on the streets, as girls are tossed around like pretty things, burdened by the task of being beautiful. There are also layers of the joy, sorrow, and revelation coexisting immigrant psyche, the Latinx psyche, that begins to bleed between lines of first and second generations. And while some chapters are like character sketches of people and their quirks, they all shine with the unmistakable spark of loneliness, sadness, and search.
It’s because we see them through Esperanza’s eyes, and the untinted lens betrays a mixed wish to fly away, but still stay rooted. She discovers who she is in shedding her humble origins, and when they finally come off like a second skin, realizes their beauty and patterns. Esperanza’s quiet revolutions guide the novel to its blossoming end. Although she can leave, she cannot forget all the people on Mango Street who cannot. The book is like a rich fruit of the American dream, universal and accessible, without, perhaps, the tedious and bumbling language of other classics. It will hold a hand in your heart, as you go down the street.