The House On Mango Street: Historical Context
Sandra Cisneros was born in 1954 to parents of Mexican descent. She grew up in a Puerto Rican neighborhood in Chicago with her parents and six brothers, but the family would often take trips to Mexico. She has published poetry, short stories, and two critically acclaimed novels, “The House on Mango Street” and “Carmelo.”
When “The House on Mango Street” was published in 1984, it was one of many novels published during that time by minority women writers, focusing on culture and gender. Though it was mostly well-received and continues to be quite popular today, Cisneros did receive some criticism, mostly by minority male writers.
Many people thought that Cisneros was selling out and acting as a traitor to her people by writing a novel about leave the barrio (a Spanish-speaking neighborhood), and also felt she was affirming the stereotypes about Mexican-American or Latin-American men being abusive. They believed that Cisneros wrote of her people in a demeaning way, whereas she should have celebrated the culture. Also, as Cisneros was writing during a time when women were becoming increasingly powerful, they criticized her for embracing the feminism that was created by white women.
Some of the favorable remarks on the novel surround Cisneros’ unique writing style, as she told a series of short stories that never made any one character particularly important, rather than telling one long story with a plot that flows together. Though Cisneros is criticized for condemning her culture she never actually speaks ill of it, nor does she embrace it, she simply tells it how it is.