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Hispanic American & Latin American Literature

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Focus on The House on Mango Street, Sandra Cisneros

Click to see full size imageSandra Cisneros's stories, variously described as prose poems and a novel, were originally published by a small Texas press specializing in Mexican-American writing; the work was enthusiastically repackaged later by a New York publisher in a climate newly favourable to ethnic American fictions.

Narrated in the lyrical voice of a child (one piece was illustrated and published separately as a children's book), the vignettes describe life on a delapidated Chicago street in a Latin community. Though there are painful episodes – a girl beaten by her father, a Mexican immigrant killed in a hit-and-run accident – the musical, poetic language and affectionate details give the work a basic optimism.

The stories chronicle Esperanza Cordero's coming of age and her hope that writing will provide her an escape from Mango Street: her ambition is to live in a house 'quiet as snow, a space for myself to go, clean as paper before the poem', though she promises never to forget her origins. This, Cisneros's first work, was soon considered a modern classic of Hispanic-American fiction and was widely taught in American schools and colleges.

From CREDO House on Mango Street: Cambridge Guide to Women's Writing in English.

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