“I wanted to will my blood to stop, my heart to quit its pumping.”
Sometimes a book comes along that compels a reader to reread it. That happened to me, as I wandered around my local Barnes and Noble. It had a new cover, but in this instance, it wasn’t the cover that caught my attention. It was the feeling that tugged on my wrist and said, “Hey, remember me? Remember this book? This time in your life when you read me for the first time?”
Why this book? It was the first one I read where I understood the power of having one worthy goal, keeping that goal in mind through all the ups and downs, and focusing on that goal even as hope drifted in and out of my life. This book did that for me. This book reminded me that no matter who you are or what you’ve been through, there is always a chance to change your path.
Told in a series of vignettes, this book reads like warm honey in the way the words flow. If poetry could be told in a narrative, this would be that.
So often people attribute stereotypes to certain groups, educational performance to economic income, and expectations to traditional measurements. This book is that breakout book — the one that tests the boundaries. The narrator, Esperanza, doesn’t want to fit in — to her Latino section of Chicago. She doesn’t want to belong where she is — in the rundown section of her neighborhood. She wants to find a different way to define herself, and she does so by reverse comparison of all that is around her that she knows she doesn’t want. She has the inner strength in herself that pushes her to want to be the one who gets out. She is the one who is born to be the role model that she never had.
Some parts of the book had me rolling my eyes, sighing in frustration, and wondering if I was supposed to feel angry instead of pity, sad rather than joyous, but that is what made this a reread for me. Despite the narrator’s circumstances and the other characters’ situations, the author wrote in such a way that I felt – and that, to me, is the sign of a powerful book. Esperanza writes about all these people who blame their unfortunate circumstances on others, and yet, Esperanza refuses to fall into that trap. She finds strength in herself.
This book is brilliant and powerful, filled with slang and culture unfamiliar to me before I read this book for the first time, but it’s also a testament to humanity and the significance of believing in yourself, of making your own path in the given circumstances of your life. We are all facing challenges and battles and stereotypes and… at every stage, we all have something to fight for or something to stand against. This novel is an easy lesson in hope. It’s not about finding a friend or a boyfriend. It’s about finding her identity. It’s a true coming-of-age book.
The one downfall, in my opinion, was the punctuation – or lack of correct punctuation – throughout the book. For this reason, I think this book would be better enjoyed as an audiobook. As someone who appreciates mechanical correctness in writing, I found the lack of quotation marks distracting.
I recommend this book for everyone who ever faced a difficult challenge and had to develop a solution to resolve the situation.
I’d love to hear from you! In “The House on Mango Street,” Esperanza has one clear goal: she wants a house that is hers. Do you have one clear goal? Did you achieve it? Are you still going after it?
As always, thanks for your time!
New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Marisa Cleveland loves to laugh, hates to cry, and does both often. She has a master’s degree from George Mason University and joined The Seymour Agency after she ended an eight-year career teaching students language arts, grades 6-12. Previous to teaching, she worked as an assistant director for a graduate school in Washington, D.C., before settling in Southwest Florida over a decade ago. As a former gymnast, cheerleader, and dancer, she understands the importance of balance, and she encourages everyone to stay flexible. Cleveland is a Leadership Marco 2015 alum, and she loves connecting with other readers through social media. Though she’s a painfully private introvert, she can be reached through her website: www.marisacleveland.com or follow her journey on Twitter: @marisacleveland.