The House on Mango Street

The House on Mango Street

by Sandra Cisneros
The House on Mango Street

The House on Mango Street

by Sandra Cisneros


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Notes From Your Bookseller

A deeply moving coming of age story told in bite-sized pieces, The House On Mango Street is full of all the feels. It meaningfully engages in themes of identity and self-expression. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll be inspired to be a better person. There’s a reason it’s so widely adored.


NATIONAL BESTSELLER • A coming-of-age classic about a young girl growing up in Chicago • Acclaimed by critics, beloved by readers of all ages, taught in schools and universities alike, and translated around the world—from the winner of the 2019 PEN/Nabokov Award for Achievement in International Literature.

“Cisneros draws on her rich [Latino] heritage...and seduces with precise, spare prose, creat[ing] unforgettable characters we want to lift off the page. She is not only a gifted writer, but an absolutely essential one.” —The New York Times Book Review

The House on Mango Street is one of the most cherished novels of the last fifty years. Readers from all walks of life have fallen for the voice of Esperanza Cordero, growing up in Chicago and inventing for herself who and what she will become. “In English my name means hope,” she says. “In Spanish it means too many letters. It means sadness, it means waiting."

Told in a series of vignettes—sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes joyous—Cisneros’s masterpiece is a classic story of childhood and self-discovery and one of the greatest neighborhood novels of all time. Like Sinclair Lewis’s Main Street or Toni Morrison’s Sula, it makes a world through people and their voices, and it does so in language that is poetic and direct. This gorgeous coming-of-age novel is a celebration of the power of telling one’s story and of being proud of where you're from. 

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780679734772
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 04/03/1991
Series: Vintage Contemporaries
Edition description: Reissue
Pages: 144
Sales rank: 3,676
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 8.06(h) x 0.44(d)
Lexile: 870L (what's this?)

About the Author

About The Author
Sandra Cisneros is a poet, short story writer, novelist and essayist whose work explores the lives of the working-class. Her numerous awards include NEA fellowships in both poetry and fiction, the Texas Medal of the Arts, a MacArthur Fellowship, several honorary doctorates and national and international book awards, including Chicago’s Fifth Star Award, the PEN Center USA Literary Award, and the National Medal of the Arts awarded to her by President Obama in 2016. Most recently, she received the Ford Foundation’s Art of Change Fellowship, was recognized among The Frederick Douglass 200, and was awarded the PEN/Nabokov Award for Achievement in International Literature.

Her classic, coming-of-age novel, The House on Mango Street, has sold over six million copies, has been translated into over twenty languages, and is required reading in elementary, high school, and universities across the nation.

In addition to her writing, Cisneros has fostered the careers of many aspiring and emerging writers through two non-profits she founded: the Macondo Foundation and the Alfredo Cisneros del Moral Foundation. She is also the organizer of Los MacArturos, Latino MacArthur fellows who are community activists. Her literary papers are preserved in Texas at the Wittliff Collections at Texas State University. 

Sandra Cisneros is a dual citizen of the United States and Mexico and earns her living by her pen. She currently lives in San Miguel de Allende.


San Antonio, Texas

Date of Birth:

December 20, 1954

Place of Birth:

Chicago, Illinois


B.A., Loyola University, 1976; M.F.A., University of Iowa Writers' Workshop, 1978

Read an Excerpt

from the Introduction by John Phillip Santos

When we meet Esperanza Cordero, the almost mystically knowing young Chicana narrator of The House on Mango Street, she is already very much a canny teller of tales, speaking in medias res, in the midst of an unfolding story of her heroic quest to find a true home.

“We didn’t always live on Mango Street,” she begins. She details a litany of her family’s peregrinajes through previous houses in Chicago, as if reading from some codex memorializing a series of sacred migrations: “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 remember. But what I remember 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.”

Involuntary peregrinations and deprivations spark Esperanza’s imagination. Her family has had to leave their previous residence when the “water pipes broke and the landlord wouldn’t fi x them because the house was too old. We had to leave fast.” Esperanza dreams of a house with “running water and pipes that worked.” She imagines a house with “three washrooms so when we took a bath we wouldn’t have to tell everybody.” It would be a white house, surrounded by a proper yard with trees and grass. “This was the house Papa talked about when he held a lottery ticket and this was the house Mama dreamed up in the stories she told us before we went to bed.”

But as Esperanza candidly reveals, the family’s new house on Mango Street only has one bathroom, and “Everybody has to share a bedroom – Mama and Papa, Carlos and Kiki, me and Nenny.”

“I knew then I had to have a house. A real house. One I could point to. But this isn’t it. The house on Mango Street isn’t it.” And then, fathoming her disappointment and longing, Esperanza takes us into her confidence, she shares something that is beyond an intuition – it’s a glimpse at a secret, deeper knowing of unknown origin that will propel and inflect the unforgettable stories that are to come: “For the time being, Mama says. Temporary, says Papa. But I know how those things go.”

How can she know this? How can such she already know the way things go? And why is she offering us her testimonio?

It’s Esperanza’s ineluctable knowing and her indelible way of expressing it which transfi xes readers around the globe with a universal human story of a young girl’s becoming, establishing The House on Mango Street over decades as the first Latinx American classic of world letters. Seven million copies have been sold in the United States, and millions more abroad, in as many as twenty-six translations. Notably, it is also the fi rst book by a US-born Latinx writer to be included in the legendary and august Everyman’s Library series, auspicious indeed for the author and the book – as well as for the series. And as celebrated as the novel has been in the forty years since its publication, it’s important to point out that despite wide adoption in school curricula, it has also been banned from schools in numerous fl ashpoints during America’s recent and ongoing culture wars, officially cited for “age appropriateness” – but it’s Esperanza’s searing powers of observation, and her “knowing” of the world around her, especially coming from a young Chicana, that seem to strike fear in some people’s hearts.

As the author of The House on Mango Street, Sandra Cisneros brings a profound new embrace of a unique literary legacy of the Americas to the Everyman series, as an American writer who is mestiza, feminista, urbana, cosmopolitana, and sin vergüenza – all without shame.

Esperanza’s limpid voice, her deceptively simple diction, her unique lyrical vernacular, belie a profound understanding of the complex intricacies of our humanity that can’t be fully explained, but it has deep roots in the experiences, readings, and understandings of the author, herself an oracle of a knowing that eludes explanation.


I met Sandra Cisneros in my hometown of San Antonio, Texas in 1983, just before the publication of The House on Mango Street by a small Latino publishing house in Houston, Arte Público Press, that first published works of now well-known Latinx writers, as well as “lost” Latinx literary works. Vivacious, loquacious, and audacious, with an electric halo of ebony curls, she was by then entirely a protean whirlwind of literary marvel. She was just back from a walkabout across Europe (including four months in Yugoslavia), and the Mediterranean. Both of us were aspiring writers, but her aspirations were feverishly inquisitive, passionate and opinionated, volubly rooted in a commitment to writing as an act of bounding invention, and social conscience. A poet and fiction writer, she possessed a documentary eye that saw the many ways the world oppressed the poor and the marginalized.

She was a force unlike any I’d yet encountered, determined to use her gifts to sow new seeds in the fallow fi elds of American letters, so long ignorant and dismissive of voices like hers. And Chicanx letters, the work of Mexican American writers, were in an uncertain, in-between moment, emerging from a rich movimiento history into we-knew-not-yet what was to come.

As fate would have it, we were the finalists to become the inaugural Director of the literature program at the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center, a newly created haven for Mexican American arts, literature, music, and theater in my hometown of San Antonio. Sandra (forgive the familiarity, but to refer to her any other way feels fake) got the job, but in meeting her then, I gained a lifelong literary ally, interlocutor, mentor, and occasional conspirator.

I had learned much from powerful women writers. I grew up with the poet Naomi Shihab Nye, had carried on a fraught correspondence with Laura (Riding) Jackson, and now Sandra arrived in San Antonio with a spell-binding sense of her own destiny, a destiny that would shortly unfold further in grand ways that were somehow against all odds while possessing a certain inevitability. She was an inspiration, and indeed, in three-hundred-year-old San Antonio she would eventually become La Sandra, a transforming presence for the city, and eventually for American literature.

It would take a while yet for the world to fully take note of The House on Mango Street, the mesmerizing testimonio of the journey of Esperanza Cordero among the souls and spaces of her Chicago neighborhood, as she struggles to assert her place in the world, as she longs for the dreamed-of house of her own. The path of this now universally classic novel to this Everyman’s Library edition would be lengthy, and bumpy.

After the book’s initial publication by the Houston small press, Sandra met her agent and forever since dharma companion Susan Bergholz. It was with the eventual publication of The House on Mango Street by Vintage Books in 1989 that the novel would begin to find its staggering, first national, then ever-widening global readership. But that wasn’t thanks to any career-forging reviews in major newspapers or literary journals, virtually all of whom maintained their studied inattention and ignored the book. I remember it more as a gradually rising tide of word-of-mouth revelations, people passing the book along to one another like the talisman of a new reckoning with ourselves.

Like my thirteen-year-old daughter Francesca, who recently read the copy I handed her for the first time, after which she shared: “As a young Latina who is still figuring out everything, this book gave me so many ways to relate to the young protagonist. I saw myself in her, and I think many other girls my age could too. The feeling of not wanting to be contained – to not be limited to the things we get to do, say, or experience. The longing for more is something I cannot only greatly appreciate, but also deeply understand. I loved this book because usually when adults try to get into the minds of children, it’s a colossal fail. It’s unrealistic – and can even feel like they’re mocking us. It just doesn’t sit right. Sandra goes into the minds of children in a realistic way, adding beautiful touches of vibrant culture that makes me proud to be a Mexican American.”

You get it? Literally millions have shared this experience, and this is a book that continues to light up souls.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

“A classic. . . . This little book has made a great space for itself on the shelf of American literature.”
—Julia Alvarez

Afortunado! Lucky! Lucky the generation who grew up with Esperanza and The House on Mango Street. And lucky future readers. This funny, beautiful book will always be with us.”
—Maxine Hong Kingston

"Cisneros draws on her rich [Latino] heritage...and seduces with precise, spare prose, creat[ing] unforgettable characters we want to lift off the page. She is not only a gifted writer, but an absolutely essential one."
—Bebe Moore Campbell, The New York Times Book Review

"Marvelous...spare yet luminous. The subtle power of Cisneros's storytelling is evident. She communicates all the rapture and rage of growing up in a modern world."
San Francisco Cronicle

"A deeply moving novel...delightful and poignant.... Like the best of poetry, it opens the windows of the heart without a wasted word."
Miami Herald

"Sandra Cisneros is one of the most brillant of today's young writers. Her work is sensitive, alert, with music and picture."
—Gwendolyn Books

Gwendolyn Brooks

Sandra Cisneros is one of the most brilliant of today's young writers. Her work is sensitive, alert, nuanceful…rich with music and picture.

Reading Group Guide

“Sandra Cisneros is one of the most brilliant of today’s young writers. Her work is sensitive, alert, nuanceful . . . rich with music and picture.” –Gwendolyn Brooks

The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros has been recognized by critics, professors, and readers alike as one of most important contributions to modern literature. This landmark story collection relates the triumphant coming-of-age of young Esperanza Cordero who finds her own voice and inner potential to overcome the impediments of poverty, gender, and her Chicana-American heritage. We hope the following introduction, discussion questions, suggested reading list, and author biography enhance your group’s reading of this exceptional work.

1. For discussion of the individual stories in THE HOUSE ON MANGO STREET
“The House on Mango Street”
In describing her house, or where she lives, what does Esperanza convey about her self-identity? How is the description of her house different from other information about her and her family’s identity, such as a name, an occupation, or a physical description? Why might Cisneros have chosen to open the book with a description of Esperanza’s house?

2. “Hairs”
What binds a family together in The House on Mango Street?

3. “My Name”
What does Esperanza find shameful or burdensome about her name? Why might Cisneros have chosen this name for her protagonist?

4. “Cathy Queen of Cats”
Why is Cathy’s family about to move, and what does this mean to Esperanza?

5. “Our Good Day”
At this stage of her life, what are Esperanza’s friendships based on, and what do her friends mean to her? Does she fit in with an older or younger crowd, and how does she feel about her place in the social hierarchy?

6. “Laughter”
What common traits does Esperanza share with Nenny, and how does she distinguish herself from Nenny?

7. “Gil’s Furniture Bought & Sold”
What makes Esperanza want the music box, and why is she ashamed of wanting it? How does her reaction to the box differ from Nenny’s reaction, and what does this difference tell the reader about the difference between the two girls? As in “Hairs” and “Laughter,” how does Esperanza separate herself from her family?

8. “Meme Ortiz”
How do the residents of Mango Street interact with one another?

9. “Louie, His Cousin & His Other Cousin”
How do Esperanza’s vivid similes such as those in this story (“the nose of that yellow Cadillac was all pleated like an alligator’s” [p. 25]) or those in “Laughter” (“ice cream bells’ giggle” or laughter “like a pile of dishes breaking” [p. 17]) set the tone throughout the novel? As Esperanza matures, does her use of simile change?

10. “Marin”
Does Marin dream of sex, romance or love, or all three? What are her goals? How does Esperanza position herself vis-á-vis Marin, and what is her opinion of Marin? Can she identify with Marin, and how might Marin be or not be a role model for Esperanza?

11. “Those Who Don’t”
How does Esperanza’s view of herself compare to her perception of how others view her?

What is the picture of the neighborhood that Esperanza paints for the reader? Does this picture change the reader’s perception of the neighborhood from this point on in the book?

12. “There Was an Old Woman She Had So Many Children She Didn’t Know What to Do”
Like “Rafaela Who Drinks Coconut & Papaya Juice on Tuesdays,” the title of this story is long and filled with detail. What do these and other titles in the book convey about the people and the life surrounding Esperanza? What kind of tone do these longer titles set for the story? What do they suggest about Esperanza’s character?

How are children regarded in Esperanza’s community?

13. “Alicia Who Sees Mice”
How has Esperanza’s relationships with Alicia changed since “Cathy Queen of Cats”?

How does Esperanza’s portrait of Alicia compare to her portrait of Marin? What do these portraits indicate about the differences between the two girls, and about Esperanza herself?

14. “Darius & the Clouds”
How does Esperanza keep her dreams alive? Does she hold any religious beliefs?

15. “And Some More”
What is the importance of names? How does Esperanza portray names in this story in comparison to her own name in “My Name”? How has her narrative voice changed from that earlier story?

16. “The Family of Little Feet”
To what degree is Esperanza aware of sex and sexuality? What does this indicate to the reader about her age?

17. “A Rice Sandwich”
What kind of person is Esperanza? What does the reader learn from this story about her strengths and weaknesses?

18. “Chanclas”
What stage in Esperanza’s life does this story capture, and how is this stage portrayed?

How has Esperanza’s voice changed from the previous stories “And Some More” and “The Family of Little Feet,” and in what ways is her voice still the same?

19. “Hips”
How does Esperanza distinguish herself from Nenny in this story? Does this distinction echo the one in “Gil’s Furniture Bought and Sold”?

How does Esperanza distinguish herself from the other girls she plays with, and has her relationship with them changed since the earlier stories such as “And Some More” or “Our Good Day”?

Has Esperanza’s comprehension of her own sexuality changed since “Marin,” and, if so, how?

20. “The First Job”
What range of emotions does Esperanza experience in this story, and how does Cisneros convey these emotions to the reader without naming them? How does Esperanza express her emotions in this story differently than those she experienced in “A Rice Sandwich” or “Chanclas” and, if so, why?

21. “Papa Who Wakes Up Tired in the Dark”
What is Esperanza’s relationship with her father?

How does this story develop Esperanza’s character?

22. “Born Bad”
What clues does this story provide about the roles of women and men in Esperanza’s community?

How does this story, like “Papa Who Wakes Up Tired in the Dark,” evidence Esperanza’s character development?

23. “Elenita, Cards, Palm, Water”
Does the superstition expressed in this story conflict or coexist with any religious beliefs Esperanza may hold? With what tone does Esperanza describe her visit to Elenita?

24. “Geraldo No Last Name”
What is the significance of this being the last story in the book in which Marin is mentioned?

25. “Edna’s Ruthie”
What does Esperanza learn from Ruthie’s experience that helps her formulate goals?

26. “The Earl of Tennessee”
What does Esperanza learn from Earl that might help her formulate goals?

27. “Sire”
How has Esperanza’s awareness of her own sexuality evolved from “Hips” to this story? How have her imagination and her desires moved away from her negative sexual experience in “My First Job”?

28. “Four Skinny Trees”
What do the trees symbolize? What does Esperanza impose of her own character on the trees, and what does she take from the trees?

How do the trees compare to the clouds in “Darius & the Clouds”?

29. “No Speak English”
What does Esperanza tell us about her community’s attitude towards non-Mexican Americans? What about the image that the non-Latinos have of the Latinos? How do these views help or hinder Esperanza in the formulation of her own personal identity?

30. “Rafaela Who Drinks Coconut & Papaya Juice on Tuesdays”
What conflicting needs or desires of Esperanza’s does her description of Rafaela’s situation convey?

32. “Sally”
Compare the portrait of Sally to that of Marin in “Marin.” How is Esperanza’s relationship with Sally different?

33. “Minerva Writes Poems”
With what tone is Esperanza’s plaintive “There is nothing I can do” conveyed? [p. 85]

34. “Bums in the Attic”
Why does Esperanza wish to house “bums” in her attic?

35. “Beautiful & Cruel”
Does Esperanza reconcile the images of herself as “ugly” [p. 88] and “beautiful and cruel,” and what does each self-image imply about her future?

36. “A Smart Cookie”
What does Esperanza learn from her mother in this story, and how might their relationship be characterized?

37. “What Sally Said”
With what tone does Esperanza convey the violence Sally suffers? How does this tone convey her attitude toward abuse? Has Esperanza’s attitude changed from the earlier stories? Compare Esperanza’s family’s response toward this abuse with how the community reacts toward domestic violence and abuse in general.

38. “The Monkey Garden”
What is the nature of Sally’s and Esperanza’s friendship?

Can Esperanza ever recover what she lost in the monkey garden?

What does the monkey garden symbolize?

39. “Red Clowns”
What does Esperanza lose in “Red Clowns,” and how does it compare to her loss in “The Monkey Garden”?

What clues does Cisneros provide the reader about the precise nature of the assault on Esperanza?

40. “Linoleum Roses”
How and why has Esperanza’s tone toward Sally changed?

41. “The Three Sisters”
In what way do the Sisters provide the decisive turning point for Esperanza?

How does Esperanza’s community fit into her vision of her own future?

42. “Alicia & I Talking on Edna’s Steps”
What is the significance of the fact that the only lasting friendship Esperanza seems to have is with Alicia?

43. “A House of My Own”
How does Esperanza’s dream house in this story and in “Bums in the Attic” differ from Sally’s dream house in “Linoleum Roses”?

How does Cisneros utilize the recurring image of a house as a metaphor to tie her stories together thematically and structurally? Is the house a positive or negative image? What does it alternatively preserve or imprison within its walls, and what does it keep out? How is Esperanza’s house on Mango Street alike or different from the other houses portrayed in the stories? [See, e.g., “Meme Ortiz”]

44. “Mango Says Goodbye Sometimes”
Why must Mango say goodbye to Esperanza, and not vice versa? Why is Mango Street personified as a “she”?

Might Esperanza’s view of her own name have changed at this point, and, if so, how might she describe it?

1. From the beginning, Esperanza senses she does not want to end up inheriting her great-grandmother’s “place by the window . . . the way so many women sit their sadness on an elbow” [“My Name” p. 11]. How does Esperanza emotionally and physically separate herself from the other women: Marin, Sally, Rafaela, Minerva, or Ruthie? Will her solution in “Beautiful & Cruel” [“I am one who leaves the table like a man, without putting back the chair or picking up the plate” p. 89] be an effective one? How is her self-esteem formed, and how does it evolve over the course of the novel? What obstacles will Esperanza have to overcome, and what battles will she have to fight as she carves a future for herself?

2. Can or should The House on Mango Street be categorized as a coming-of-age novel, or is it more complex than that?

3. How do the children who inhabit Mango Street become the men and women portrayed in the novel? For instance, what circumstances explain how the Vargas children, Meme Ortiz, the girls Esperanza plays with, and her own sisters grow into the adults of Mango street such as Esperanza’s parents, the husbands and fathers in the neighborhood, the young wives, and the older single adults such as Earl and Ruthie? Is the children’s fate inevitable? How does Esperanza set an example for how they can shape their own futures?

4. If you have some knowledge of the history of Chicanos in America–how they arrived here and their place in society, how does The House on Mango Street reflect this history? How is the Chicanos’ treatment in society–i.e., their systematic exclusion–alike or different from that of other minority groups?

5. Given that the narrator is a young female, how does Cisneros make Esperanza and her stories accessible to older and/or male readers? Does Esperanza’s youth affect her telling of the story and her reliability as a narrator? Is there a universal message about one’s identity that transcends Esperanza’s individual experience?

6. Cisneros’s prose has been described as “poetic”* and “lyrical.”** What characteristics of the stories made these critics choose these descriptive words? What other words might be used to describe the selections in The House on Mango Street and why? Are the selections in The House on Mango Street most aptly labeled (a) stories, (b) sketches, (c) vignettes, or (d) poems, and what characteristics make them one or the other? How does Cisneros make the collection of sketches or stories work together as a book structurally and thematically?

* “Voices of Sadness & Science” by Gary Soto, The Bloomsbury Review, Vol. 8, No. 4, July—August, 1988, p. 21.
** “In Search of Identity in Cisneros’ The House on Mango Street” by Maria Elena de Valdés, The Canadian Review of American Studies, Vol. 23, No. 1, Fall, 1992, pp. 55—72.

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