The House on Mango Street, which appeared in 1983, is a linked collection of forty-four short tales that evoke the circumstances and conditions of a Hispanic American ghetto in Chicago. The narrative is seen through the eyes of Esperanza Cordero, an adolescent girl coming of age. These concise and poetic tales also offer snapshots of the roles of women in this society. They uncover the dual forces that pull Esperanza to stay rooted in her cultural traditions on the one hand, and those that compel her to pursue a better way of life outside the barrio on the other. Throughout the book Sandra Cisneros explores themes of cultural tradition, gender roles, and coming of age in a binary society that struggles to hang onto its collective past while integrating itself into the American cultural landscape. Cisneros wrote the vignettes while struggling with her identity as an author at the University of Iowa's Writers Workshop in the 1970s. She was influenced by Russian-born novelist and poet Vladimir Nabokov's memoirs and by her own experiences as a child in the Chicago barrio. This engaging book has brought the author critical acclaim and a 1985 Before Columbus American Book Award. Specifically, it has been highly lauded for its impressionistic, poetic style and powerful imagery. Though Cisneros is a young writer and her work is not plentiful, The House on Mango Street establishes her as a major figure in American literature. Her work has already been the subject of numerous scholarly studies and is often at the forefront of works that explore the role of Latinas in American society.
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