Where is The House on Mango Street?
December 11th, 2009Filed under: Stories
The “real” Mango Street house at 1524 N. Campbell.
DePaul University student Jasmin M. Ortiz wrote this post, third in our People and Places series.
Chicago native Sandra Cisneros may be best known for her 1984 novel, The House on Mango Street, which celebrates its twenty-fifth anniversary this year. Cisneros was born in 1954, one of six children and the only girl in a family of boys. They lived for a time in Humboldt Park. Out of her memories of this neighborhood she developed The House on Mango Street. The book is primarily autobiographical and tells the coming-of-age story of a young Mexican American girl named Esperanza.
Through vignettes, Cisneros describes Esperanza’s life, community, and hopes. For example, in a section called “Hips,” Esperanza discovers why the local boys start to notice her. In a 1991 radio interview with Studs Terkel, Cisneros talked about female identity, describing women as “voiceless.” She argued that some women only find the courage to speak up after they experience marriage and motherhood. She hoped women and girls might think more about their own empowerment after reading her work.
Milwaukee Avenue stores play a role in Cisneros’s writing.
To better understand the novel, I set out to find some of the places mentioned in The House on Mango Street. The trip was a fun experience, because I was able to see Cisneros’s Chicago. At 1524 North Campbell Avenue I found the “real” Mango Street house where she spent her middle and high school years. She said that the book couldn’t be named Campbell Street because it wasn’t interesting and would only remind people of soup. Instead of Campbell, she used a word that rhymed with it—mango. Many of the locations were relatively quiet. Only once in awhile some of the neighbors were out and about, but usually no one approached me while I took pictures. However, taking the images was a little weird. I felt like I was on a stakeout.
What is your favorite novel set in Chicago?