Book Reviews

“She looked out the window her whole life, the way so many women sit their sadness on an elbow.” – Sandra Cisneros, The House on Mango Street

This is the second time I read this book, and this time I read it a bit different or at least I reacted to it differently. I read it like 4 years ago, and I have grown up and have reacted differently to it.

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Chicano literature is so strong and the political discourse is so important. In this narrative, we can see the main character of the book that does not like to be who she is, she does not like to live where she lives, she does not like to be associated to the rest of the town. We see so many times how the latino culture of “you do what you are told” is presented on the text, mainly on the part of get a job at the age of 16, or around that. However, this is totally related to the economical struggles that the family has, like most of all the Mexican families living in the States. The father is a gardener and some might find this stereotypical but I see it more like a denounce. Nor only that, but also the part of the “white” lost people coming down town all afraid of the Mexican community, is this reality or is this another stereotype created by society? Esperanza, who is the main character and the voice of the narration, tells us how the rich white people live in the starts up hill near to heaven so far away from earth and all the struggles and problems that they as poor Mexican have to deal with.

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Her name is so symbolical (Esperanza/Hope) as she hopes to get out of the town, she hopes to be able to be more than the rest of the people, even like her mother who was a “smart cookie” and she left everything for a family. Esperanza sees and at some point criticizes how all the women in town live, are married,  are sad and miserable and find marriage as the only way to get out of town, even when it means to be trapped in a house as a sale or an object. Once again a discriminatory and patriarchal society shows how women, Mexican women, are victims of a world that does not like their “women strong”. Patriarchy is always limiting their options, opinions, and objectifying them to the point of rape, and sadly, women see this happen but not do anything to mend it. Another important symbol in this book are the windows. Windows are the separation of the life one has and to the life one wants. The window is an opening to travel and a privacy breach; however, it restricts the traveler to get as far as they can see, and usually the ones that look through the window are the ones that see and never do, just like all the women in the story. They only see and never do, and the outside world is able to see them and their misery.

A quick read with no Spanish “interruptions” like in Real Women Have Curves that will allow you to see a bit of the life of the Chicano population and the struggle to find their own identity in a society that rejects them but needs them at the same time. A good recommendations to get away from all the fantasy and easy stories that we usually read (no that is bad, but it is good to read a bit of everything).

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