75 pages 2 hours read

Sandra Cisneros

The House on Mango Street

Fiction | Novella | YA | Published in 1984

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Summary and Study Guide


Sandra Cisneros’s The House on Mango Street is an internationally acclaimed novel, first published in 1984. The story of Esperanza Cordero is told through stunning vignettes that chronicle the life of a young Latina woman growing up in the Hispanic quarter of Chicago. Heralded as an important voice in representing an underserved community, the novel won the American Book Award in 1985. It has since become an integral part of school curriculum across the country. This guide refers to the Kindle edition, copyright 2009.

Plot Summary

In this collection of vignettes, Esperanza charts her transition from child to young woman. She is growing up in a small house in urban Chicago, surrounded by other children of mostly Mexican American families. She navigates the shame of being poor at her Catholic school, feeling suffocated by sharing a tiny space with her parents and siblings, and the difficulties of developing sexual awareness and losing the innocence of childhood. She uses writing to help her process her feelings and experiences.

When the family finally moves into a house (instead of an apartment), it is nothing like what any of them hoped or dreamed. The family shares one bedroom, and there is no yard like Esperanza hoped. Their house is crowded up against apartment buildings, and the residents of the neighborhood are loud and bustling. Many of the local families experience poverty and domestic violence.

Esperanza focuses on finding a best friend of her own, as she’s unsatisfied with her little sister, Nenny. She meets two sisters named Rachel and Lucy, and they become fast friends after pooling their money together to buy a bicycle. Later, Esperanza becomes friends with a beautiful girl named Sally. Sally introduces Esperanza to femininity and sexuality. At a carnival with Sally, Esperanza is forced into losing her virginity to a boy that she wants to escape from. She never forgives Sally for getting her into that situation or for not rescuing her.

Esperanza shares her love of reading and writing poetry with select adults, all of whom are very encouraging. Some even tell her that she is talented and will go far, but they remind her that she must always remember her people and where she comes from. Her mother shares her own regrets about giving up on her education too soon and wasting her talents. She inspires Esperanza to study and work hard. Esperanza begins to dream of having a house all to herself; a house surrounded by nature that is quiet enough to focus on writing. The final vignette declares that she will continue on with her love of writing and will leave Mango Street in order to pursue her dream, but she will not forget to come back for the ones she leaves behind.