The House on Mango Street

Growing up in the Hispanic section of Chicago, main character Esperanza Cordero shares with readers her feelings and thoughts about the neighborhood she lives in and how it has affected her life.
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The House on Mango Street

by Sandra Cisneros
The House on Mango Steet

Consisting of 44 short stories, The House on Mango Street is a powerful book told by a young girl named Esperanza Cordero. Each chapter tells a gripping story about the girl's childhood on Mango Street. The story takes place in a poor, Latino neighborhood in Chicago. Esperanza dreams of the house she will someday have, her own house, not on Mango Street.

This classic book is celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2009. Visit author Sandra Cisneros's website to see what she has to say about the novel and her life, or visit one of her readings across the country.

Enrichment Activities
Books by Sandra Cisneros

Enrichment Activities

  • Character Chart
    Students will analyze the main characters, their relationships with one another, and any distinct characteristics they may have using the Character Chart.

  • Conflict Dissection
    This graphic organizer will help students to study the story's setting, problem, and solution. Use the Conflict Dissection organizer.

  • Discussion Ideas and Questions
    To prepare for the discussion element of this story use the discussion questions below.

    1. Is the house on Mango Street the kind of house Esperanza always wanted? What kind of house does she want? Explain.
    2. Describe Esperanza's neighborhood. Would you like to live there? Explain.
    3. In "Those Who Don't," Esperanza says of her neighborhood, "All brown all around, we are safe." What does she mean? How does she feel about going into a neighborhood of another color?
    4. Esperanza introduces the reader to many different characters on Mango Street. Do they have any common bonds? If yes, what are they? If no, why not?
    5. Why are the Four Skinny Trees important to Esperanza?
    6. In "Beautiful and Cruel" Esperanza says, "I have begun my own quiet war." What does she mean?
    7. Of the three sisters, what did the sister with the marble hands mean when she told Esperanza that she (Esperanza) must remember to come back for the others? What does the circle refer to?
    8. Throughout the story, Esperanza clings to her desire to leave Mango Street. Keeping her character in mind, do you think that one day she will leave? Explain.
    9. Describe Esperanza. Do you believe her to be a keen observer of her world? Explain, using examples from the story.
    10. In English, "Esperanza" means Hope. Does Esperanza's name fit her character? Explain.
    11. This book has a distinct narrative structure. What effect did this structure have on you? Did it enhance or detract from the book? Explain.

  • Group Activities and Culminating Projects
    Any time students work collaboratively the discussions and results are more vivid and exciting. These projects are great group ideas as well as culminating, cross-curricular projects.

    1. What do you predict for Esperanza's future? Write a short story showing what you think her future holds.
    2. Read Woman Hollering Creek by Sandra Cisneros, which is a collection of short stories. Compare the stories to The House on Mango Street and note similarities and differences in the ideas and writing style. Write an essay comparing the two works.
    3. Discuss with your group Cisneros's telling of her story in a series of vignettes. Was this format effective? Could she have told the story another way that might have improved it? Work toward a consensus and then have your recorder share your conclusions with the members of other groups.
    4. Write a poem about Mango Street, as Esperanza might write one.
    5. In "Bums in the Attic," Esperanza states that once she owns her own house, she will not forget where she came from, and that when passing bums ask if they can come in, she will offer them the attic and ask them to stay. Will she really do this? Or once she has a nice house away from Mango Street will she forget her past? Discuss these questions with your group. When you are done, your recorder should share your conclusions.
    6. The House on Mango Street is unusual in its format. Imagine that you were telling a friend about this book. What would you say? Write down your impressions.

    Curriculum Connections:
    1. Hispanic-Americans of Spanish or Latin American descent comprise a major ethnic group in the United States. Research this group. From what countries do they come? In which areas of the U.S. are Hispanic populations concentrated? How well are they able to enter the mainstream? Write a report of your findings.
    2. American culture incorporates the customs and traditions of many of the large ethnic groups that have settled here. It has always been this way. Find out how the cultures of people from Spanish and Latin American descent have found a place in the overall culture of the United States. Consider things like food, language, and specific events. Create a chart that shows your findings.

  • What Is Your Heritage
    Esperanza Cordero was very sure of where she came from. Help your students discover their heritage and then have them look for classmates with the same background. Make a copy of What Is Your Heritage for each student and then let the exploring begin.

About the author

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