• Great Beginnings: The House on Mango Street

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in Great Beginnings     Comments 8 comments

    House on Mango StreetThe other day I learned about this great new collection of Mexican-American literature put together by Dagoberto Gilb and his son, Ricardo, both of whom I’ve had the pleasure of doing some work with.

    The book — which is designed as a textbook but certainly will appear in plenty of personal libraries — features work from fifty writers, each piece beginning with an introduction from Ricardo Gilb.

    Among those fifty writers is Sandra Cisneros, whose classic The House on Mango Street I touched on, too briefly, in this reading roundup.

    So in order to give that book more of its due, today we’re going to look at the first paragraph for this, our next Great Beginnings.

    First the lines, and then some discussion questions.

    We didn’t always live on Mango Street. 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 most 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.

    So, does this opening paragraph make you want to read further into The House on Mango Street? Why or why not? What are some of the key words in these lines? What do we learn here (below the surface) about the narrator and about her family, and what questions does this passage bring to mind? Let us know in the comments below, and/or raise a question or comment of your own.


    WriteByNight is a writers’ service dedicated to helping you achieve your creative potential and literary goals. We work with writers of all experience levels working in all genres, nationwide and worldwide. If you have a 2016 writing project that you’d like a little help with, take a look at our book coaching, private instruction and writer’s block counseling services.

    Linked2WriteByNight co-founder David Duhr is copy editor and fiction editor at the Texas Observer and contributes regularly to the Dallas Morning News, Publishing Perspectives, the Observer and other publications.





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    I taught The House on Mango Street to high school creative writing students. The book really gets at how there are always things seen and unseen, and how we have different sides we show of ourselves depending on what group we are interacting with.

    B. Holloway

    I think we learn a super lot. Young family, moves around a lot, which probably means they don’t have much money. He can’t remember even some of the street names, which means there are more. And maybe this narrator is looking back from a distant future and is about to tell us the story of his upbringing. It makes me want to read more, and to know what was so special about this particular house, rather than the house on Lomis, etc. But it’s probably because of what happened to him there rather than the house itself. Thanks for sharing… Read more »

    Betty G.

    I don’t fancy this. It’s almost too simple and too
    childlike. If I get a sense that the narrator is going to be
    an overly-precocious kid, I look for something else to read. I lik
    ely will give it more leeway if its a classic like this one is,
    but not alot of leeway. I know this is a short book though,
    So maybe.

    Yi Shun Lai

    Interesting, Betty. Does it help or hurt to know that the book is written in short, tight vignettes, and that each of the vignettes has been described as verging on poetry?
    Also, do you infer anything about the narrator’s ethnic or cultural background from these lines?
    And finally, does it help you know ahead of time that the narrator is indeed coming of age, and therefore younger than you might expect in a book that’s won such critical acclaim?

    […] months since we trotted out a Great Beginnings discussion, last exploring Sandra Cisneros’ The House on Mango Street, about which a few of you had some interesting things to […]

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