A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Often assigned in school. Random House provides a list of questions for parents or teachers who want to dive into specific vignettes.
It's important to strive for a better life and keep a promise to come back for "the ones I left behind."
Positive Role Models
Readers will root for the smart, gifted narrator who displays grit and agency in changing the challenging circumstances in which she grew up, which includes just one room for the whole family to sleep in. She's on a quest for a better life.
Main character is Chicana, and most characters are Latino (Mexican, Puerto Rican). Sexism and socioeconomic inequality are major themes.
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Violence & Scariness
On a trip to a carnival, a group of boys attack Esperanza. Esperanza's account of what happened is disjointed and not graphically detailed: She was with Sally but Sally goes off with an older boy, and while Esperanza waits for her, she's assaulted. One boy forces her to kiss him, repeatedly saying "I love you, Spanish girl"; it's implied that she was raped. Esperanza grows up in an environment where men and boys prey on young girls and force girls to kiss them. Husbands and fathers abuse their children.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
A man hires a woman for sex. Esperanza talks about her awakening sexuality.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
One mother smokes a cigarette, references to drinking.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Sandra Cisneros' The House on Mango Street is a coming-of-age novel originally published in 1984 about a girl named Esperanza growing up in a lower income Latino neighborhood in Chicago. The book begins when she's 12 and ends when she turns 14. It features gritty material including child abuse, men who treat their wives like captives, and a scene where a group of boys sexually assault a girl. It's not graphically described, but it's implied that she was raped. Esperanza is a smart, gifted narrator who's determined to say goodbye to her neighborhood and forge a better life and a home of her own. This book is often used in the classroom setting, and parents and teachers can use it to open up a variety of discussions, including about the importance of consent. One mother smokes a cigarette, and there are references to drinking.
Is It Any Good?
In these short, poetic installments, Sandra Cisneros captures the sadness and desperation Esperanza sees among her neighbors, especially the women. Esperanza writes about her house on Mango Street with "windows so small you'd think they were holding their breath"; her mother, who quit school and pushes her to continue her education; and her friend Sally, who gets married too young to escape her house, only to end up trapped by her husband, who doesn't allow her to see friends or leave the house. There's also the confusion that comes with growing up, and the beauty in small moments, like riding a bike with friends.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.
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Our Editors Recommend
Books with Latino Characters
Books to Help Teens Understand the Importance of Consent
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