More than 30 years ago, Sandra Cisneros wrote “The House on Mango Street.”
For decades, the book has inspired others. This is the impetus behind the latest piece from the National Museum of Mexican Art in Chicago to come to the National Hispanic Cultural Center.
“The House on Mango Street: Artists Interpret Community” is curated by Cesário Moreno and opens this weekend to the public.
“It’s a great exhibit,” says Tey Marianna Nunn, director of the NHCC Art Museum. “It showcases the impact of the book. Some of the artists reference the book directly and others have just been inspired by the book.”
“The House on Mango Street” was written in 1984. It tells the story of Esperanza Cordero, who is growing up in Chicago with Chicanos and Puerto Ricans.
Cordero is determined to leave her impoverished neighborhood.
The book is a series of vignettes from Cordero’s point of view.
The exhibition, like the novel, highlights many of the issues facing adolescents growing up in urban areas. The visual artists in the exhibition explore experiences prevalent in working-class neighborhoods across the U.S.
The intended result is for individuals from diverse neighborhoods, cities, ethnic backgrounds and walks of life to identify commonalities in their coming-of-age experiences. The works of art feature some of the major themes of the book, including hope, personal dreams, hardship, disillusionment, family, community, home, identity, relationships, independence, coming of age and storytelling.
It opened last year in Chicago and the NHCC is the only other venue to present the 150 pieces.
Nunn says the response from the community has been amazing.
“Everybody recognizes it,” she says. “I posted a picture of her desk and typewriter, and it got so many views on Facebook.”
Nunn says Cisneros’ work resonates with so many because it’s deeply personal.
“You can understand and relate because there are so many details,” she says. “While you’re reading, you can remember something in your childhood and it’s the common ground that resonates. That’s the genius behind her writing.”