from my bookshelf: the house on mango street by sandra cisneros

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the house on mango street (which i have been informed is pronounced like “mahn-go”) is the story of a young latina, esperanza cordero. the story is told through multiple vignettes and describes cordero’s experiences growing up in chicago. cisneros’ writing will transport you to another world; you’ll smell food simmering on the stove, hear shrill voices of family members yelling back and forth to each other, and feel your feet pounding on city sidewalks as cordero journeys through young adulthood.

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“It’s important to have this space to look and think. When she lived at home, the things she looked at scolded her and made her feel sad and depressed. They said, ‘Wash me.’ They said, ‘Lazy.’ They said, ‘You ought.’ But the things in her office are magical and invite her to play. They fill her with life. It’s the room where she can be quiet and still and listen to the voices inside herself. She likes being alone in the daytime.”

“I knew then I had to have a house. A real house. One I could point to. But this isn’t it. The house on Mango Street isn’t it. For the time being, Mama says. Temporary, says Papa. But I know how those things go.”

“But my mother’s hair, my mother’s hair, like little rosettes, like candy circles all curly and pretty because she pinned it in pincurls all day, sweet to put your nose into when she is holding you, holding you and you feel safe, is the warm smell of bread before you bake it, is the smell when she makes room for you on her side of the bed still warm with her skin, and you sleep near her, the rain outside falling and Papa snoring. The snoring, the rain, and Mama’s hair that smells like bread.”

“In English my name means hope. In Spanish it means too many letters. It means sadness, it means waiting. It is like the number nine. A muddy color. It is the Mexican records my father plays on Sunday mornings when he is shaving, songs like sobbing.”

“Nenny and I don’t look like sisters . . . not right away. Not the way you can tell with Rachel and Lucy who have the same fat popsicle lips like everybody else in their family. But me and Nenny, we are more alike than you would know. Our laughter for example. Not the shy ice cream bells’ giggle of Rachel and Lucy’s family, but all of a sudden and surprised like a pile of dishes breaking. And other things I can’t explain.”

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