Annotation by Tisha Reichle
The women of Cisneros’s stories are flawed creatures; that is what makes them so real. Unlike traditional heroines, they don’t always win. The narrator and her comadres are women that readers from varying cultural backgrounds can relate to. Cisneros expands the virgin-whore dichotomy to illustrate other types of women. Some of her characters praise men, others blame men, but they all assert their woman-ness proudly.
Some of the stories, like “Eleven” and “Barbie-Q,” echo the childhood conflicts Cisneros focused on in The House On Mango Street. The narrator recalls a school incident that brought her shame on her eleventh birthday and a fire that damaged the toy store. Through these accounts, she illuminates her unfortunate economic circumstances.
Most of the description, however, are sexual, abusive, and yet filled with faith. In “One Holy Night,” a young girl loses her virginity to a man who vanishes, bringing shame to her family. In “Never Marry a Mexican,” girls are warned about the consequences of making bad choices. In “Woman Hollering Creek” a woman endures the will of men (father and husband) until rescued by other women. In the face of serious obstacles, Cisneros’s women (young and mature) persevere; they are models of strength and inspirations for future generations of women. Cisneros gives women who have not been listened to an opportunity to be heard.
She also employs a unique narrative structure. Some of the individual stories possess a reader in a brief snapshot – no dialogue and no real plot. Others have a more traditional beginning, middle, and end with the narrator sharing what others say but not in conventional dialogue. Others are even more experimental with simultaneously alternating conversations, an acrostic poem, lists, letters, and advertisements inserted to move the plot along. Many of the longer pieces have interesting scene breaks – sometimes brief fragments of memory separate the actual action.
Reading this text empowers me as a Chicana, as a Feminist, and as a writer. I am encouraged by Cisneros’s words to reach deeper into my subconscious and extract the silenced voices of my ancestors.