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The House on Mango Street (Vintage Contemporaries)


The House on Mango Street (Vintage Contemporaries) Cover

ISBN13: 9780679734772
ISBN10: 0679734775
Condition: Standard
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Reading Group Guide

1. For discussion of the individual stories in THE HOUSE ON MANGO STREET

“The House on Mango Street”

In describing her house, or where she lives, what does Esperanza convey about her self-identity? How is the description of her house different from other information about her and her familys identity, such as a name, an occupation, or a physical description? Why might Cisneros have chosen to open the book with a description of Esperanzas house?

2. “Hairs”

What binds a family together in The House on Mango Street?

3. “My Name”

What does Esperanza find shameful or burdensome about her name? Why might Cisneros have chosen this name for her protagonist?

4. “Cathy Queen of Cats”

Why is Cathys family about to move, and what does this mean to Esperanza?

5. “Our Good Day”

At this stage of her life, what are Esperanzas friendships based on, and what do her friends mean to her? Does she fit in with an older or younger crowd, and how does she feel about her place in the social hierarchy?

6. “Laughter”

What common traits does Esperanza share with Nenny, and how does she distinguish herself from Nenny?

7. “Gils Furniture Bought & Sold”

What makes Esperanza want the music box, and why is she ashamed of wanting it? How does her reaction to the box differ from Nennys reaction, and what does this difference tell the reader about the difference between the two girls? As in “Hairs” and “Laughter,” how does Esperanza separate herself from her family?

8. “Meme Ortiz”

How do the residents of Mango Street interact with one another?

9. “Louie, His Cousin & His Other Cousin”

How do Esperanzas vivid similes such as those in this story (“the nose of that yellow Cadillac was all pleated like an alligators” [p. 25]) or those in “Laughter” (“ice cream bells giggle” or laughter “like a pile of dishes breaking” [p. 17]) set the tone throughout the novel? As Esperanza matures, does her use of simile change?

10. “Marin”

Does Marin dream of sex, romance or love, or all three? What are her goals? How does Esperanza position herself vis-á-vis Marin, and what is her opinion of Marin? Can she identify with Marin, and how might Marin be or not be a role model for Esperanza?

11. “Those Who Dont”

How does Esperanzas view of herself compare to her perception of how others view her?

What is the picture of the neighborhood that Esperanza paints for the reader? Does this picture change the readers perception of the neighborhood from this point on in the book?

12. “There Was an Old Woman She Had So Many Children She Didnt Know What to Do”

Like “Rafaela Who Drinks Coconut & Papaya Juice on Tuesdays,” the title of this story is long and filled with detail. What do these and other titles in the book convey about the people and the life surrounding Esperanza? What kind of tone do these longer titles set for the story? What do they suggest about Esperanzas character?

How are children regarded in Esperanzas community?

13. “Alicia Who Sees Mice”

How has Esperanzas relationships with Alicia changed since “Cathy Queen of Cats”?

How does Esperanzas portrait of Alicia compare to her portrait of Marin? What do these portraits indicate about the differences between the two girls, and about Esperanza herself?

14. “Darius & the Clouds”

How does Esperanza keep her dreams alive? Does she hold any religious beliefs?

15. “And Some More”

What is the importance of names? How does Esperanza portray names in this story in comparison to her own name in “My Name”? How has her narrative voice changed from that earlier story?

16. “The Family of Little Feet”

To what degree is Esperanza aware of sex and sexuality? What does this indicate to the reader about her age?

17. “A Rice Sandwich”

What kind of person is Esperanza? What does the reader learn from this story about her strengths and weaknesses?

18. “Chanclas”

What stage in Esperanzas life does this story capture, and how is this stage portrayed?

How has Esperanzas voice changed from the previous stories “And Some More” and “The Family of Little Feet,” and in what ways is her voice still the same?

19. “Hips”

How does Esperanza distinguish herself from Nenny in this story? Does this distinction echo the one in “Gils Furniture Bought and Sold”?

How does Esperanza distinguish herself from the other girls she plays with, and has her relationship with them changed since the earlier stories such as “And Some More” or “Our Good Day”?

Has Esperanzas comprehension of her own sexuality changed since “Marin,” and, if so, how?

20. “The First Job”

What range of emotions does Esperanza experience in this story, and how does Cisneros convey these emotions to the reader without naming them? How does Esperanza express her emotions in this story differently than those she experienced in “A Rice Sandwich” or “Chanclas” and, if so, why?

21. “Papa Who Wakes Up Tired in the Dark”

What is Esperanzas relationship with her father?

How does this story develop Esperanzas character?

22. “Born Bad”

What clues does this story provide about the roles of women and men in Esperanzas community?

How does this story, like “Papa Who Wakes Up Tired in the Dark,” evidence Esperanzas character development?

23. “Elenita, Cards, Palm, Water”

Does the superstition expressed in this story conflict or coexist with any religious beliefs Esperanza may hold? With what tone does Esperanza describe her visit to Elenita?

24. “Geraldo No Last Name”

What is the significance of this being the last story in the book in which Marin is mentioned?

25. “Ednas Ruthie”

What does Esperanza learn from Ruthies experience that helps her formulate goals?

26. “The Earl of Tennessee”

What does Esperanza learn from Earl that might help her formulate goals?

27. “Sire”

How has Esperanzas awareness of her own sexuality evolved from “Hips” to this story? How have her imagination and her desires moved away from her negative sexual experience in “My First Job”?

28. “Four Skinny Trees”

What do the trees symbolize? What does Esperanza impose of her own character on the trees, and what does she take from the trees?

How do the trees compare to the clouds in “Darius & the Clouds”?

29. “No Speak English”

What does Esperanza tell us about her communitys attitude towards non-Mexican Americans? What about the image that the non-Latinos have of the Latinos? How do these views help or hinder Esperanza in the formulation of her own personal identity?

30. “Rafaela Who Drinks Coconut & Papaya Juice on Tuesdays”

What conflicting needs or desires of Esperanzas does her description of Rafaelas situation convey?

32. “Sally”

Compare the portrait of Sally to that of Marin in “Marin.” How is Esperanzas relationship with Sally different?

33. “Minerva Writes Poems”

With what tone is Esperanzas plaintive “There is nothing I can do” conveyed? [p. 85]

34. “Bums in the Attic”

Why does Esperanza wish to house “bums” in her attic?

35. “Beautiful & Cruel”

Does Esperanza reconcile the images of herself as “ugly” [p. 88] and “beautiful and cruel,” and what does each self-image imply about her future?

36. “A Smart Cookie”

What does Esperanza learn from her mother in this story, and how might their relationship be characterized?

37. “What Sally Said”

With what tone does Esperanza convey the violence Sally suffers? How does this tone convey her attitude toward abuse? Has Esperanzas attitude changed from the earlier stories? Compare Esperanzas familys response toward this abuse with how the community reacts toward domestic violence and abuse in general.

38. “The Monkey Garden”

What is the nature of Sallys and Esperanzas friendship?

Can Esperanza ever recover what she lost in the monkey garden?

What does the monkey garden symbolize?

39. “Red Clowns”

What does Esperanza lose in “Red Clowns,” and how does it compare to her loss in “The Monkey Garden”?

What clues does Cisneros provide the reader about the precise nature of the assault on Esperanza?

40. “Linoleum Roses”

How and why has Esperanzas tone toward Sally changed?

41. “The Three Sisters”

In what way do the Sisters provide the decisive turning point for Esperanza?

How does Esperanzas community fit into her vision of her own future?

42. “Alicia & I Talking on Ednas Steps”

What is the significance of the fact that the only lasting friendship Esperanza seems to have is with Alicia?

43. “A House of My Own”

How does Esperanzas dream house in this story and in “Bums in the Attic” differ from Sallys dream house in “Linoleum Roses”?

How does Cisneros utilize the recurring image of a house as a metaphor to tie her stories together thematically and structurally? Is the house a positive or negative image? What does it alternatively preserve or imprison within its walls, and what does it keep out? How is Esperanzas house on Mango Street alike or different from the other houses portrayed in the stories? [See, e.g., “Meme Ortiz”]

44. “Mango Says Goodbye Sometimes”

Why must Mango say goodbye to Esperanza, and not vice versa? Why is Mango Street personified as a “she”?

Might Esperanzas view of her own name have changed at this point, and, if so, how might she describe it?


1. From the beginning, Esperanza senses she does not want to end up inheriting her great-grandmothers “place by the window . . . the way so many women sit their sadness on an elbow” [“My Name” p. 11]. How does Esperanza emotionally and physically separate herself from the other women: Marin, Sally, Rafaela, Minerva, or Ruthie? Will her solution in “Beautiful & Cruel” [“I am one who leaves the table like a man, without putting back the chair or picking up the plate” p. 89] be an effective one? How is her self-esteem formed, and how does it evolve over the course of the novel? What obstacles will Esperanza have to overcome, and what battles will she have to fight as she carves a future for herself?

2. Can or should The House on Mango Street be categorized as a coming-of-age novel, or is it more complex than that?

3. How do the children who inhabit Mango Street become the men and women portrayed in the novel? For instance, what circumstances explain how the Vargas children, Meme Ortiz, the girls Esperanza plays with, and her own sisters grow into the adults of Mango street such as Esperanzas parents, the husbands and fathers in the neighborhood, the young wives, and the older single adults such as Earl and Ruthie? Is the childrens fate inevitable? How does Esperanza set an example for how they can shape their own futures?

4. If you have some knowledge of the history of Chicanos in America-how they arrived here and their place in society, how does The House on Mango Street reflect this history? How is the Chicanos treatment in society-i.e., their systematic exclusion-alike or different from that of other minority groups?

5. Given that the narrator is a young female, how does Cisneros make Esperanza and her stories accessible to older and/or male readers? Does Esperanzas youth affect her telling of the story and her reliability as a narrator? Is there a universal message about ones identity that transcends Esperanzas individual experience?

6. Cisneross prose has been described as “poetic”* and “lyrical.”** What characteristics of the stories made these critics choose these descriptive words? What other words might be used to describe the selections in The House on Mango Street and why? Are the selections in The House on Mango Street most aptly labeled (a) stories, (b) sketches, (c) vignettes, or (d) poems, and what characteristics make them one or the other? How does Cisneros make the collection of sketches or stories work together as a book structurally and thematically?

* “Voices of Sadness & Science” by Gary Soto, The Bloomsbury Review, Vol. 8, No. 4, July—August, 1988, p. 21.

** “In Search of Identity in Cisneros The House on Mango Street” by Maria Elena de Vald?s, The Canadian Review of American Studies, Vol. 23, No. 1, Fall, 1992, pp. 55—72.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 4 comments:

mccaly28, July 7, 2015 (view all comments by mccaly28)
I think this book is solid between 3.5 and 4 stars. The words are beautiful and the stories are short and enchanting. I liked that the book came full circle by the end but it didn't feel story shaped in the way traditional novellas are. But it is beautifully written and tells a story of coming of age and adulthood.
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Jordan Mierek, June 2, 2011 (view all comments by Jordan Mierek)
I was assigned to read this story for my ethnic fiction class. After the first few pages, I recalled reading it back in high school for an English class. Just goes to show how often this book is used in educational settings.

Some of the story sections are hard to follow because they are written from a child's point of view, but by the end of the book, everything comes together smoothly to show a girl's coming-of-age.
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(3 of 5 readers found this comment helpful)
Jan Priddy, January 1, 2011 (view all comments by Jan Priddy)
THE HOUSE ON MANGO STREET by Sandra Cisneros. First published in 1984, 100 years after Twain's HUCK FINN, it is another American classic. I've used it for high school classes, but the poetry and subtext work better with older students who take the time to consider what Cisneros has to say on many levels. Some of my students love it, some do not. I think it's one of those books that might come back to you and come back and come back—more to it as you go along. I read this book the first time 20 years ago and have read it several times since. There is more to it every time.
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(5 of 8 readers found this comment helpful)
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Product Details

Cisneros, Sandra
Vintage Books USA
New York :
Short Stories (single author)
Mexican americans
Short stories
Chicago (Ill.)
Literature, Modern
Chicago (Ill.) Fiction.
General Fiction
Literature-A to Z
fiction;chicago;short stories;coming of age;latino;vignettes;novel;hispanic;young adult;literature;ya;women;20th century;family;american;mexican americans;latina;poverty;realistic fiction;poetry;multicultural;contemporary;contemporary fiction;american lit
fiction;chicago;short stories;coming of age;latino;vignettes;novel;hispanic;young adult;literature;ya;women;20th century;family;poverty;latina;american;mexican americans;poetry;realistic fiction;multicultural;girls;american literature;contemporary;mexican
fiction;chicago;short stories;coming of age;latino;vignettes;novel;hispanic;young adult;literature;ya;women;20th century;family;poverty;latina;american;mexican americans;poetry;realistic fiction;multicultural;girls;american literature;contemporary;mexican
fiction;chicago;short stories;coming of age;latino;vignettes;novel;hispanic;young adult;literature;ya;women;20th century;family;poverty;latina;american;mexican americans;poetry;realistic fiction;multicultural;girls;american literature;contemporary;mexican
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Vintage Contemporaries (Paperback)
Series Volume:
Publication Date:
Grade Level:
12 x 9 x 5 in 9.77 lb

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The House on Mango Street (Vintage Contemporaries) Used Trade Paper
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Product details 144 pages Vintage Books USA - English 9780679734772 Reviews:
"Review" by , "Cisneros draws on her rich heritage...and seduces with precise, spare prose, creat[ing] unforgettable characters...She is not only a gifted writer, but an absolutely essential one."
"Review" by , "Marvelous...spare yet luminous. The subtle power of Cisneros's storytelling is evident. She comunicates all the rapture and rage of growing up in a modern world."
"Review" by , "A deeply moving novel...delightful and poignant...Like the best of poetry, it opens the windows of the heart without a wasted word."
"Review" by , "Sandra Cisneros is one of the most brillant of today's young writers. Her work is sensitive, alert, with music and picture."
"Synopsis" by , Acclaimed by critics, beloved by readers of all ages, taught everywhere from inner-city grade schools to universities across the country, and translated all over the world, The House on Mango Street is the remarkable story of Esperanza Cordero. Told in a series of vignettes — sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes deeply joyous — it is the story of a young Latina girl growing up in Chicago, inventing for herself who and what she will become. Few other books in our time have touched so many readers.
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