Acclaimed by critics, beloved by readers of all ages, taught everywhere from inner-city grade schools to universities across the country, and translated all over the world, The House on Mango Street is the remarkable story of Esperanza Cordero.
Told in a series of vignettes – sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes deeply joyous – it is the story of a young Latina girl growing up in Chicago, inventing for herself who and what she will become. Few other books in our time have touched so many readers.
I read this book as part of my curriculum for a Multicultural Children’s Literature course. To be honest, I had never heard or seen it before. I was surprised to find that I actually connected to the story in many ways. Much like Esperanza, I wanted nothing more than to escape the life I was living as a child. Many of the aspects of poverty that are explored in this book were present in my own childhood, either from personal experience or reflecting on those who were part of my life. For this ability to connect with the story, I wanted to give this book a high rating, but the truth is I could never and would never teach this to a class.
Did I enjoy this story? Yes. Was it perfect? No. I found the timeline to be confusing. The story is told in a series of vignettes and as I read it, I thought it covered different times in Esperanza’s childhood. I was surprised to discover that this entire book only covered one year of Esperanza’s life. Some of the vignettes feature a childish version of Esperanza and others a more mature version. This back and forth could be seen as sign of the book being a coming of age tale, but since she is supposed to be twelve in the story, it’s not an adequate enough explanation for the lack of continuity. The other reason I would never introduce this book into my classroom is the lack of punctuation and grammar. If I’m expected to teach children how to read and write properly, I cannot use a book that fails to use proper punctuation and grammar.
As a reader, I enjoyed this story. As a future educator, I found the structuring, lack of clarity, and lack of grammar/punctuation to be inappropriate for a school setting. I am an advocate for the use of multicultural literature in today’s schools. However, that doesn’t mean I should be a hypocrite and teach students the rules of writing, while thumbing their noses with a book that doesn’t follow those rules.