Thursday, June 20, 2013

The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros

For my June classic, I wanted a short story that packed a lot of punch. That's how I feel about June; it's a light, breezy month that always seems to pack a lot of surprise power. 

I chose the most perfect June read. 

First lines:

"We didn't always live on Mango Street. Before that we lived on Loomis on the third floor, and before that we lived on Keeler. Before Keeler it was Paulina, and before that I can't reemmber. But what I remember most is moving a lot. Each time it seemed there'd be one more of us. By the time we got to Mango Street we were six- Mama, Papa, Carlos, Kiki, my sister Nenny and me.

The house on Mango Street is ours, and we don't have to pay rent to anybody, or share the yard with the people downstairs, or be careful not to make too much noise, and there isn't a landlord banging on the ceiling with a broom. But even so, it's not the house we'd thought we'd get."

This book is about Esperanza Cordero, a young girl trying to find her place in the world while growing up in her house on Mango Street. The story is told in a series of vignettes, none longer than about six pages. Through these seemingly simple stories, you truly get to know Esperanza through her words and the haunting visuals that take root in your mind.

This was quite honestly some of the most beautiful writing I have ever had the privilege of reading. The entire book reads like an epic poem, the most epic story that could ever be told. A story that every person alive shares: the journey of growing up and becoming who you are. It's the story of what shapes all of us, which is where we grow up. Those people, those places, those rooms, those halls. They stay with us like this book will stay with me. 

Cisneros has some of the most beautiful turns of phrase. She made me see things in a different way and she made this book so alive and so beautiful. Her mind must be so vivid and lovely; I'd like to live in her mind and surround myself with her words and ideas. She just made the whole world new for me. 

Like in this section, Esperanza is talking about having to be friends with her baby sister out of sisterly duty although she wants her own best friend. She says of her situation:

"Until then I am a red balloon, a balloon tied to an anchor."

I just. I just... I can't with this book. 

Like when she describes going through puberty. Specifically, getting hips.

"One day you wake up and they are there. Ready and waiting like a new Buick with the keys in the ignition. Ready to take you where?

They bloom like roses..."

Speaking from first hand experience here... this is 100% what happens when you get hips. You wake up and BAM. Suddenly you sway when you walk and suddenly boys are watching you. Oh puberty, you testy mistress. 

Although this is an incredibly short book and the vignettes so small, I felt incredibly connected to Esperanza and each character she introduced me to. You watch her grow through these stories and you can sense her growth with the words. The stories change from not wanting to play with her sister, to going through puberty, to longing for kisses, to longing for a future away from a past she is anchored to. Her story is my story. Her story is your story. There is a reason this book is so prolific although it is a new arrival into the classic canon. Everyone can relate to the fear and desire to grow up, and how hand in hand those two emotions are. 

I chose to read this book at a very interesting time. I'm preparing for a few huge life events. I'm finishing school, getting a real people job, moving into the city. Like Esperanza I've spent my whole life pushing myself forward, wanting to leave my past and the house I never wanted for the house I dreamed of and the autonomy I've longed for. But now that my time has come, I'm nervous and thrilled at the same time. 

This story was an amazing reminder as to how connected we are to our roots. No matter how much we try and fight where we are from, it's ingrained into our souls and imprinted on our hearts. 

This book made me want to write and I was inspired the entire time I read it. I finished the book and immediately wanted to read it again and relish those words once more. This book was a huge comfort to me too during this crazy times in my life. Especially the last lines.

"One day I will pack my bags of books and paper. One day I wills ay goodbye to Mango. I am too strong for her to keep me here forever. One day I will go away. 

Friends and neighbors will say, What happened to that Esperanza? Where did she go with all those books and paper? Why did she march so far away?

They will not know I have gone away to come back. For the ones I left behind. For the ones who cannot out."

I too must now pack up my bags of books and paper and get ready for the rest of my life. But as of now, at this moment, I very much enjoyed my brief stay on Mango Street with Esperanza. Please please please take a visit there yourself. You'll love your time there. 

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