‘The House on Mango Street’ in U.S. Education

“The House on Mango Street: Re-Creating an ‘American Identity’in Public School Literature.”
In The Americanist. The University of Oslo: Oslo, 2006.


In an era of education that will be remembered as George W. Bush’s “No Child Left Behind” years, U.S. public schools are struggling to universalize and make available the “American experience” to every student. As part of this effort, concepts of what an American is need to be redefined and all inclusive, so that no groups or views are “left behind”. This becomes particularly problematic in fields of study such as literature, where before the late 20th century “curriculum” and “canon” were synonyms – teach students the “classics.” Yet, however relative works like Moby Dick, The Scarlet Letter, and Catcher in the Rye may be to the “American experience,” in solely teaching canonized texts such as these much of the American experience is “left behind.”

Hence, the United States is looking to incorporate modern views into a seemingly antiquated educational literary canon. Yet, like all education policies in the U.S., the updating of literary curriculum is slow-moving. Many school districts, for example, may have made room for one or two “new” texts in order to allow the “classics” to remain.

A defense for the depths of experience in Sandra Cisnero’s The House on Mango Street seems necessary. For, while this book can be—and is—taught to children as young as 12, it is comparatively richer and more meaningful to high school seniors and even university students. How, then, does a book of 160 pages reach such a varied groups of age, ethnicity, socio-economic standing, and gender? It doesn’t. As much as every school district would love to have a single book that solved all issues regarding diversity, the attention on minorities is still desperately lacking in America. However, by including The House on Mango Street and understanding why it is so applicable, the search for a new, “American” canon becomes closer to actualization.