The Power of Multicultural Literature

“The House on Mango Street” by Mexican American author Sandra Cisneros is a 1984 novel. It is told from the point of view of 12-year-old Esperanza Cordero, a young Chicana girl growing up in the Hispanic quarter of Chicago, whose neighborhood is one of harsh realities and harsh beauties.

According to Goodreads, Esperanza shares the stories of her family and neighborhood of Humboldt Park, a Latinx community in Chicago.

Through the authors use of literary devices and poetic style, the reader follows Esperanza on her journey to find her identity as she struggles to understand her Chicana positionality, role as an English and Spanish speaker, growing sexuality, and gender as a female in a patriarchal society.

“When I read this book, my mind was opened up completely and I was shown a whole new perspective of life and what people have to go through. It blew me away,” said sophomore Owen Ayotte.

This novel teaches a moral lesson that you always belong, even if you feel like you don’t.

One of the most important themes of “The House on Mango Street” is the power of words, with some themes touching upon the struggle for self-definition, coming of age, and identity, according to LitCharts.

“I will never fully understand what it feels like to be in the shoes of the main character, but I was able to read this novel and feel more educated about these types of situations,” said sophomore Carolyn Doherty.

The novel was inspired by one of Cisneros multiple childhood residences, with the address of 1525 N. Campbell Avenue, from which the book receives its title. Although the book is not entirely nonfiction, the author drew heavily on her childhood experiences as inspiration.

“This was definitely by far one of my best reads, I was introduced to the novel in class and took it upon myself to read it on my own, and I’m glad I did,” said Ayotte.

Although the novel has received positive feedback, there is some controversy based around it. Schools across the country have come to challenge and/or ban the book due to themes of racism, sexuality, and poverty, according to the American Library Association.

“I can understand why some schools would want to ban the book, but in my opinion, it should not be banned. It should be read at an age when a student can be more understanding of what the novel talks about and deserves to be read due to its educational purposes,” said sophomore Nico Bogardus.

“The House on Mango Street” is only one of many multi-cultural literature novels. Others include: “The Color Purple” by Alice Walker, “How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accent” by Julia Alvarez, “The Sun is Also a Star” by Nicola Yoon, and more.

“Students should be encouraged to read this genre of books, because, as much as they are educational, they also are entertaining and people can enjoy the read as they learn,” said Ayotte.

The main character, Esperanza, must define her place in the world, claim her identity, define a future for herself all while interfering with obstacles along the way.

“I was very blessed growing up, I never faced severe struggles like the ones spoken about in the novel, and I think it is necessary for other students who had an experience like mine to read this book and educate themselves on what some people do go through,” said Doherty.

Cisneros told AARP her purpose for writing “The House on Mango Street” was so that it would be approachable for all people, whether they were educated or not, and whether they were children or adults. She said she did not want the novel to make readers feel intimated, but rather allow them to feel welcomed.

“I haven’t heard of this book up until last year, which kind of upsets me. I wish I was told about it earlier in my life and I think we should start advertising this book as time moves forward,” said Bogardus. Although some schools across the United States do require the novel in the curriculum, other schools rest on their decision to ban it.

“The House on Mango Street” is intended for young adult audiences, since it contains serious subject matter and a great amount of symbolism underneath its surface. The novel won the American Book Award in the year 1985, it was a New York Times Bestseller, and it has been adapted into a play.

“There is no specific group of people this novel was made for, if you live on this Earth, you should get your hands on this novel and read it,” said Ayott.

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