I read The House On Mango Street when I was in the 3rd or 4th grade, and like most books I read at that age, I don’t quite remember it as well as I should. Plot tends to become muddled when you read books like the world is going to end. In my childhood bedroom, there was a growing pile of Beverly Cleary and Judy Blume books resting at the foot of my bed, too many worn-out paperbacks that couldn’t fit inside of my overflowing bookshelf. Reading the first few chapters of Sandra Cisneros’ novel along with her introduction managed to bring back vague memories of reading it. Reading her introduction especially made me realize how similar Cisneros and I are to each other. One part in particular that I connected to was Cisneros talking about her father, and how they did not have the same view on what her future should be like. He wanted her to be a weather girl, get married, have children— a boring life. Cisneros didn’t want any of that. In a way, this is like my relationship with my father. I’m not what he wanted me to become. He wanted me to get married to a man and have kids, and instead, he got a gay daughter. He wanted me to become a doctor or a lawyer or something else that has high pay. Instead, he got an aspiring journalist. A salary of $20,000 a year isn’t exactly something to write home about, but it’s something that I love, and who am I to deny myself of the life I want to live?
On being a writer, Cisneros says in her introduction that as a child, she would lie awake at night staring at the ceiling, creating pictures and stories in her mind. She’d sit at the table with paper and pen intently fixated on writing something great. This was how most of my childhood went. I was imaginative, constantly writing or reading, even though I didn’t really know what I was doing. Cisneros says about her younger self, “Where she gets these ideas of being a writer, I have no clue… She doesn’t know anything. She makes it up as she goes.” Like Cisneros, I had no idea what I was doing when I started to write. I had no prior background knowledge on how to craft a story, or how different techniques affect the meaning of my words, but I did it anyways. I was determined, much like Cisneros.
Cisneros’ experiences growing up in Chicago are ultimately what inspires and shapes her writing. Without Chicago, the story would be completely different. The setting is specific to the city and the neighborhood Cisneros grew up in, and the novel itself reflects the city as well- comprised of many little stories, all stitched together to make something bigger. (Michelle James/ City of Stories Student)