I love words. Not cruel, lying, arrogant, or mean-spirited ones, of course. I love the kind of words that make stories come alive, where you can see and touch and smell right off the page of the book. Oh to write that way… maybe one day.
A dear friend, who reads my writing because she loves me, shared this book with me. The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros. I finally read it…just a few hours long, packed with that pink-orange hue of Mexico. Mexico transplanted in Chicago. Cisneros writes so personally of growing up straddling two cultures – living in Chicago sometimes, and Mexico other times. The book is a small novel, large with details of a family living Mexican in an American city. Sandra Cisneros opens the door to the reader to step into her Mexican American childhood, tucked in a neighborhood, so like Mexico and yet still far from home.
I read some of the reviews by readers of Cisneros’ book. They are extreme in their take on this little book – ranging from those who love her writing, identifying with her stories, and those who hate that they had to read the novel (for a class, etc.), not seeing Cisneros’ writing as worthy of their time. The criticisms surprised me, and then I understood that her writing is full of strong emotion and bore fruit of that in her readers, one way or another.
I loved the way she invited the reader, one outside of this neighborhood and culture, to be a part of its story. It was impossible to tell what was fiction and what was truly her own childhood.
Below you will find some of my favorite quotes from The House on Mango Street. I hope you enjoy her words, as I did.
“My mother’s hair…is the warm smell of bread before you bake it, is the smell when she makes room for you on her side of the bed still warm with her skin, and you sleep near her, the rain outside falling and Papa snoring.”
“Those who don’t know any better come into our neighborhood scared. They think we’re dangerous. They think we will attack them with shiny knives. They are stupid people who are lost and got here by mistake. But we aren’t afraid…All brown all around, we are safe. But watch us drive into a neighborhood of another color and our knees go shakity-shake and our car windows get rolled up tight and our eyes look straight. Yeah. That is how it goes and goes.”
“Hips…one day you wake up and they are there. Ready and waiting like a new Buick with the keys in the ignition. Ready to take you where? They’re good for holding a baby when you’re cooking…you need them to dance…if you don’t get them you may turn into a man…they bloom like roses.”
“My Papa, his thick hands and thick shoes…wakes up tired in the dark,..combs his hair with water, drinks his coffee, and is gone before we wake.”
“Everything is holding its breath inside me. Everything is waiting to explode like Christmas. I want to be all new and shiny…a boy around my neck and the wind under my skirt.”
“There were sunflowers big as flowers on Mars and thick cockscombs bleeding the deep red fringe of theater curtains. There were dizzy bees and bow-tied fruit flies turning somersaults and humming in the air. Sweet sweet peach trees…big green apples hard as knees. And everywhere the sleepy smell of rotting wood, damp earth and dusty hollyhocks thick and perfumy like the blue-blond hair of the dead.”
“A house of my own…only a house quiet as snow, a space for myself to go, clean as paper before the poem.”
“I never know what I am feeling till I write about it. Writing makes me feel better when life overwhelms me.” – Sandra Cisneros*
Photo Credit – Picture of Sandra Cisneros – by ksm36 – Wikipedia.org