Explore powerful themes of growth, community, and family in The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros with these related texts.
CommonLit’s digital literacy program provides Book Pairing resources for over a hundred novels. These paired texts provide essential background information and literary connections to help students deepen their reading comprehension and engage fully with every book. Book Pairings include information about the supplemental texts, guidance on when to introduce them, and discussion questions to help students make cross-textual connections.
The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros is a narrative told through a series of vignettes. The narrator, Esperanza Cordero, details her life growing up as a Chicana girl in a Chicago neighborhood and her desire to grow up and leave her home.
Personal Narratives about Cultural Differences
Pair these short stories about identity with The House on Mango Street to draw connections to real world experiences and deepen students’ understanding of the characters’ points of view.
"Little Things Are Big" by Jesús Colón
The author of this short memoir text, Jesús Colón, is an Afro-Puerto Rican writer. In This piece, Colón describes an interaction with a white woman on the subway. Colón provides valuable perspective on how he believes he is perceived by others, and the influence it has on his actions.
Teachers can assign this text after students have read “Those Who Don’t.” Ask students to consider the similarities and differences in how Esperanza and Colón characterize those who don’t know them. What do Esperanza and Colón wish others knew about them? How do Esperanza and Colón react to others in a similar way?
"Fish Cheeks" by Amy Tan
In this short story about family, Tan recounts a time when she was embarrassed by her family’s Chinese heritage while growing up. Through the text, Tan explores how culture can be essential to a person’s identity, and learns to come to terms with her rich heritage.
Introduce this short story after reading “A Rice Sandwich,” and ask students to discuss how The House on Mango Street and “Fish Cheeks” comment differently on the idea of fitting in. How have each characters’ perspectives changed by the end of the story or chapter? What comments do Cisneros and Tan make about fitting in?
Thematic Connections Through Poetry
Read these poems alongside the novel to deepen students’ reading comprehension and understanding of key themes and ideas.
"Abuelito Who" by Sandra Cisneros
This poem about family is also written by Sandra Cisneros, the author of The House on Mango Street. In the poem, the speaker describes their changing relationship with their grandfather as he ages.
Introduce this poem after students have read “Papa Who Wakes up Tired in the Dark.” Ask students what information they learn about Abuelito that informs their understanding of the chapter from The House on Mango Street. Additionally, ask students to compare Cisneros’ repetition of the word “who” throughout both texts. What does the repetition add to the narrator or speaker’s tone towards her family members?
"The Rose That Grew From Concrete" by Tupac Shakur
This poem shares a meaningful story about identity and resilience, through an extended metaphor describing a flower that grew in an unlikely place.
After reading the chapter “Four Skinny Trees,” have students read this poem as a connection to the theme of resilience. Ask students to identify how the plants in the poem and chapter are personified. What larger ideas might these plants represent? How do the symbols of the plants add to the meaning of both the poem and chapter? What does each text teach about resilience?
"On Turning Ten" by Billy Collins
In this poem, the ten-year-old speaker reflects longingly on his youth and how growing up changes his perception of the world.
Introduce this text after students finish reading “The Monkey Garden” and ask them to compare the speaker and Esperanza’s tones towards growing up. What specific imagery and word choice does the poet or author use to develop the meaning of each text? Ask students to identify words and images that differentiate the imagination and joys of childhood from the disappointments of growing up.
Connecting Esperanza to Real-Life Activists
Provide students with real-world connections to the novel with these powerful nonfiction texts about activism and making a difference in one’s home community.
"Malala Yousafzai: A Normal Yet Powerful Girl" by NPR Staff
This article profiles Malala Yousafzai, a girl who was attacked after speaking out against the Taliban. Now, Yousafzai is a Pakistani activist for girls education and is the youngest winner of the Nobel Peace Prize.
Introduce this article after students have finished reading “Beautiful and Cruel.” Ask students to compare and contrast Malala and Esperanza’s definitions of “a strong woman.” To what extent does having power as a woman mean acting like a man? How do Malala and Esperanza obtain power? What are their motivations for being powerful women?
"Healing ‘Brick City’: A Newark Doctor Returns Home" by NPR Staff
This non-fiction piece expresses the thoughts of physician, Dr. Sampson Davis, who overcame a difficult upbringing. Davis reflects on the nature of his career and the relationship between medicine and public service.
After finishing the novella, have students read this text and consider the idea of “feeling the responsibility to give back.” How are Esperanza’s feelings at the end of the novella — “I have gone away to come back. For the ones I left behind. For the ones who cannot out” — similar to Davis’ desire to give back to his hometown? How have both Davis and Esperanza’s lives in their hometowns shaped their perspectives on education? On giving back?
Looking to teach another novel? Check out more of our Book Pairings for additional stories, poems, and informational texts.
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