Rummanah Aasi
Another slew of mini-reviews coming your way! Today is the adult edition of books that have been sitting on my bookshelf for too long and I've finally read them last year as part of the Off the Shelve Reading Challenge. Today I will be reviewing: The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros, The Coast of Chicago by Stuart Dybek, and Nine Stories by J.D. Salinger.

Description: Told in a series of vignettes stunning for their eloquence, this vignette is Sandra Cisneros's greatly admired story of a young girl's growing up in the Latino section of Chicago.

Review: The House on Mango Street was chosen for the One Book, One Chicago program a couple of years ago. It is also used in two English classes at my high school. For these reasons alone, I purchased a copy but never actually sat down to read it. The book is very short and consists entirely of vignettes from the author's childhood in a poor section of Chicago. The writing is beautiful and spare. In just a short of space, no vignette is longer that 2 or 3 pages, we get a vivid image of her family, her neighborhood, and her neighbors. We also get a chance to see our world through a different type of racial lens. It really reminded me of my younger years living in a Chicago high rise apartment. The author carefully picks and chooses her words that are potent and evocative rather than exhaustively descriptive. Would high schoolers appreciate the book's message? It's hard to tell if they would appreciate the nostalgia of childhood, but I think they would definitely could relate to Esperanza's, the narrator of the story, desire to seek freedom and explore the outside world. 

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There are some allusions to sex, drug use, and violence in the book that happen off the page. For this reason, I think it is suitable for Grades 9 and up.

If you like this book try: Carmelo by Sandra Cisneros or How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accent by Julia Alvarez

Description: A closer look at the bizarre mysteries of everyday life in Chicago's gritty ethnic enclaves during the 1960s and 1970s.

Review: The Coast of Chicago is another book used in my high school's English curriculum that I have not read before. I liked how this book was told from different parts of Chicago with a colorful cast of characters from different ethnicity, age, and gender. The book is composed of alternating long and short stories as the author recalls his old ethnic neighborhood, his early romances, and recounts a freaky urban legend about a young woman's body frozen in a block of ice. Each character stands on their own and you can feel the various emotions that they are going through. I actually preferred the short chapters that goes straight to the punch rather than the meandering longer stories which can be a bit much. Regardless, you can still pick out the important messages and themes in all of them.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is strong language, crude humor, and allusions to sex in the book. Recommended for Grades 10 and up.

If you like this book try: Chicago: City on the Make by Nelson Algren, Never  A City So Real: A Walk in Chicago by Alex Kotlowitz

Description: Since the publication of The Catcher in the Rye in 1951, the works of J.D. Salinger have been acclaimed for their humor, intensity, and their lack of phoniness. A collection of short fiction, Nine Stories contains works with those qualities that make Salinger such a well-loved author.

Review: The Catcher in the Rye had a huge impact on my life and it's a book that I never get tired of re-reading. I was afraid that I picked up another book from Salinger, it would diminish my love for Holden Caufield but I'm glad that I was wrong. Nine Stories was a mixed bag for me. I didn't love all of the stories and some of them just went over my head to be honest. The stories are varied ranging from a soldier struggling with post traumatic stress disorder after returning to war in the amazing, haunting, and gut wrenching "A Perfect Day for Bananafish" to the remarkable thought process of a child genius whom everyone thinks is sick in "Teddy". What I remember most of Salinger's writing is his uncanny ability to creating characters who mirror our problems and frustrations in trying to find a resolution.

Rating: 3.5 stars

Words of Caution: There is some language, some strong description of war violence, and other mature adult topics. Recommended for Grades 10 and up.

If you like this book try: What We Talk About When We Talk About Love by Raymond Carver, Self Help by Loorie Moore
6 Responses
  1. I never cared for A Cather in the Rye, so I don't I'd pick up Nine Stories, but House on Mango Street - that was a big one when I was getting my Master's. Loved reading your thoughts.

  2. Jenny Says:

    Wow, you've been on a roll lately Rummanah! You're a mini review machine:) I actually have never read A Catcher in the Rye. Fail. For some reason, that wasn't on my reading list in school, though I think I would have gladly traded it for Moby Dick. Moby Dick and I do not get along:) Even though you didn't care for all the stories in this one, it's nice that he consistently writes relatable characters who help us see ourselves more clearly.

  3. Sandra Cisneros has been to my campus a dozen times, and I have yet to read her books! *kicks self* I guess discussing South Texas authors all the time makes me feel excused or something. LOL

    And I've been meaning to read Nine Stories for YEARS. I bet most would go over my head too.

  4. Oh I think I'm most curious about the House on Mango Street. I may have to pick that one up. Great minis!!

  5. LoriStrongin Says:

    Can I hug you now? Catcher in the Rye is my All Time Favorite Book. I actually re-read it every year because I always find something new in Holden's story, and something new about myself.

    The House on Mango Street sounds really good. I love day-in-the-life type of vignettes, and it sounds like Ms. Cisneros really put a lot of honest rawness in her book.


  6. Great review of House on Mango Street. I've been wanting to read that one.

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