Landmark book, Sandra Cisneros' 'House on Mango Street,' inspires new art exhibit

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Hand-cut paper shows images of men in urban America. A painting highlights San Antonio, Texas biracial youth. Cowboy boots stand upright with the image of La Virgen de Guadalupe, the patron saint of Mexico and Mexican-Americans.

The art is part of a new exhibit the National Hispanic Cultural Center in Albuquerque and seeks to tackle themes from the 1984 novel, "The House on Mango Street," by acclaimed Mexican-American writer Sandra Cisneros. Included in the exhibit are personal items of Cisneros, such as a typewriter she used to write poetry and her own drawings that used to hang in her famed purple house in San Antonio, Texas.

"You don't expect in your lifetime that you are going to see your boots in a museum, or your typewriter or your desk," said Cisneros, one of the nation's most celebrated Latina authors.

During a small tour of the exhibition with fans on Wednesday, Cisneros told personal stories about her life as a writer.

"This show especially resonates with how when we are making something in a time our lives when we feel so powerless, years later, you see that what may have been difficult at the time ... It came from a place of humility," Cisneros said.

The novel "The House on Mango Street," told short vignettes, centers on Esperanza Cordero, a young Mexican-American girl who navigates the Latino section of Chicago. It has been read in thousands of high school and college classes across the country and helped spark a Mexican-American feminist movement in Latina literature.

From poverty in Latino neighborhoods to minority teens fighting emotional solitude, the multimedia exhibit, which is titled "The House on Mango Street: Artists Interpret Community," is an interpretation of Cisneros' landmark book. The artists seek to capture the book's themes of hope, personal dreams, hardship, disillusionment and family.

Among those who contributed to the exhibit are painter Carmen Lomas Garza and photographer Cecil McDonald, Jr.

Since the publication of "The House on Mango Street," Cisneros has written collections of poetry, short stories and essays. However, the 1984 book remains her most famous work.

Margaret Montoya, a University of New Mexico law professor, said the novel still is used in classes to get young students to understand the Mexican-American experience.

"It has power after all these years," she said.

The exhibition was organized by the National Museum of Mexican Art in Chicago and runs at the National Hispanic Cultural Center in Albuquerque until Sept. 25.

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