One Book, One Chicago, Two Women, One Struggle

Honored author has reservations about former home

A Chicago-born author will be returning to the city to talk about her award-winning book, but she admits that her homecoming is a reluctant one.

The House on Mango Street is the 16th selection for the One Book, One Chicago reading program. Written by Chicago native Sandra Cisneros, the novel charts the life of Esperanza Cordero, a Mexican-American girl learning how to feel comfortable with her home, her neighborhood, and herself.

"I'm going to tell you a story of a girl who doesn't belong," Esperanza says in the book.

"It's a story about growing up," said Library Commissioner Mary Dempsey, the Chicago Sun-Times reports. "It's a story about trying to fit in. It's the story of having those challenges when your name is Esperanza Cordero and you're growing up in a society that may not accept you, and you may not accept yourself."

Cisneros herself, who graduated from St. Josephinum High School and Loyola University, struggled to feel accepted in Chicago.

"Chicago has never been a nurturing place for Latinos," she said in a 1992 interview. "The neighborhoods I lived in here were bad, and they've only gotten worse. The only gains we've made have been the things the community has pushed for, such as the Mexican Fine Arts Center Museum."

"If I'm an artist, it's despite Chicago, not because of it," she added.

Cisneros, who now lives in San Antonio, Texas, will return to Chicago to discuss her book at 6 p.m., April 14, at the Harold Washington Library Center, 400 S. State St.

Perhaps then she'll feel welcomed.

Matt Bartosik, editor of Off the Rocks' next issue and "between blogs" blogger, is a born and raised Chicagoan.

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