Large bugs were crawling all over my legs! I was four years old and that was my most accessible memory of Chicago, Illinois.
My mother and grandmother had taken me there to live because they thought that there would be opportunity there for a family of Cuban refugees and their American born little girl. If they would have asked me, I would have said that Portland was just fine.
When I read that Sandra Cisneros was born there, I really felt for her. She said once that she felt alienated and isolated there. She lives in Mexico now.
The House on Mango Street is used in American high schools as a coming of age story. It is about a 12 year old girl’s movement through life on the urban sprawl of Chicago. I can see how it would be popular with any young woman. It’s a collection of vignettes describing all of the problems and joys of life.
When she wrote this novel, 1984, we were still reading about the experiences of young women with other lexicons. I remember that we were reading Atlas Shrugged that year in high school, but there was much excitement about this novel. It was when teachers and students first decided that all of the texts did not just have to have the masculine pronouns, but could use the feminine also. (Yes, students then complained about pronouns, too.)
Sandra Cisneros was born in 1954 on December 20. Her mother and father came to the United States at different times. Her father had a well-connected family in Mexico, but his father left Mexico because he rebelled against his own father’s desire for his life. He was supposed to go to a prestigious school and acquire status and wealth. Her mother was supposed to be from a less financially established family, but it was from her that Cisneros learned about the power of language.
Sandra Cisneros moved many times as a child because her father kept wanting to move. This caused great rifts within the family, and her six brothers left her with the family. Finally, young Cisneros ended up in the West Side of Chicago in an all-girl school. There she began to write.
In high school, she was editor of the literary magazine. She wrote about the Vietnam War. It is fascinating to see that she spent so much of her work life emulating people who were so far removed from the stories in her life.
Woman Hollering Creek and Other Stories is a collection of short stories. I found it and The House on Mango Street very satisfying. Great stuff.