For many, The House on Mango Street – Sandra Cisneros’ coming-of-age novel – is transformative work of art. Through short vignettes, Esperanza Cordero’s story unfolds as she navigates Chicago’s Latino neighborhoods. While filled with heavy moments – such as Esperanza’s sexual assault – the book also touches on culture, family, and female sexuality. The book’s an important contribution to Chicana feminist literature, and many schools across the country have included the book in their curriculums. And though you may turn to the book when times are tough, it’s interesting to see what books our favorite authors seek out during turbulent moments. Luckily for us, Cisneros has compiled a list of books for “our era of susto.”
Below check out six Cisneros-recommended books that made the author laugh, cry, and think:
Diary of a Reluctant Dreamer: Undocumented Vignettes From a Pre-American Life
As media portrayals of the undocumented community remain static, Alberto Ledesma presents a multifaceted account of immigrant life in Diary of a Reluctant Dreamer: Undocumented Vignettes From a Pre-American Life. Cisneros was drawn by this hybrid memoir’s central question – “at what point does a long-time undocumented immigrant become an American-in-the-making?”
Ringside Seat to a Revolution: An Underground Cultural History of El Paso and Juarez
Through essays and photos, David Dorado Romo tells the story of the Mexican Revolution, and the roles El Paso and Juarez played. “Ringside Seat to Revolution is one of my favorite history books,” Cisneros says on her website. “I open it often for research and inspiration. How is it this book isn’t required for US history? It has plenty of pictures; perfect for reluctant readers like our president.”
Parrot in the Oven: Mi Vida
Victor Martinez’s Parrot in the Oven: Mi Vida follows 14-year-old Manny Hernandez, whose aspired to be more than just a penny. His father believed people were like currency, and Manny and his family were pennies.
“This YA book, a story about a Latino family, is on my bedside,” Cisneros writes. “The author died an early death due to the pesticides he was exposed to as a young field worker.”
In Gary Soto’s young adult novel, 17-year-old Jesse leaves his parent’s house to live with his older brother. Working in the fields, they hope junior college will give them a different future. “This is one of Soto’s best books,” according to Cisneros. “It’s an extraordinary story, beautifully told, about two Chicano brothers who work in the fields.”
Upside Down: A Primer for the Looking-Glass World
Through mock lesson plans, Eduardo Galeano takes on First World privilege. “I feel like we’re living in an upside down world,” Cisneros says. “Only the late Eduardo Galeano, who passed away in 2015, could accurately capture in so few words the absurdity of the time in which we’re living.”
An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States
When history books talk about the founding of the United States, the role of indigenous groups are often erased or minimized. But in this book, Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz focuses on indigenous peoples’ history. “Winner of the 2015 American Book Award, this book examines the history that has been taken from Mexican, Mexican-Americans, Native-Americans, and Latin Americans,” Cisneros says. “It’s one of those books that should be required reading for everyone—whether you’re indigenous or not. And, more importantly, politicians should be required to read it, too.”
Check out the rest of Sandra Cisneros’ book recommendations here.