Vignettes Inspired by “The House on Mango Street”

5 Dec 2017
ByLaurie Hornik, Middle School English Department Chair

In English 7, all seventh graders are finishing a unit focused on The House on Mango Street, by Sandra Cisneros, a series of vignettes (very short glimpses and not-quite-stories) told by Esperanza, a Latina girl growing up in Chicago. As we read the book, we tracked the ways Esperanza grows and changes, all told through these little glimpses and snapshots. We learned to think about the "white space" between the vignettes and to ask questions and have insights about what might be happening there — what the author might be implying but not stating directly. We learned to appreciate the imagery, poetic devices, and artistic use of sentence fragments that Cisneros uses to create a voice for her character.

Seventh graders then used The House on Mango Street as a model for writing their own vignette collections, focused on a particular activity, place, or aspect of their identity. They filled their vignettes with artistic sentence fragments, metaphors, poetic repetition of words and sounds, and fantastically vivid imagery.

Here are a few vignettes written by seventh graders:

Art, and Its Forms

by Jackson B.

We all liked to doodle. Some of us liked to draw clowns, others preferred word art or people, but we all liked squares. Ever heard of Fibonacci? The Fibonacci sequence is a set of numbers that starts with a one or a zero, followed by a one, and continues based on the rule that each number (called a Fibonacci number) is equal to the sum of the preceding two numbers. You can make some really neat stuff with this number sequence, including the Fibonacci Spiral. You know, this:

We all found uses for this, including in school for some of our projects. Other times we'd use this for our own personal use, like spray-painting hats we don't like. Or, my personal favorite, just adding to it! Art isn't about the reaction you receive, but the message you give. Whether it be easy to identify or not. We all have voices.

The Subway

by Zachary G.

The subway. Like little melting pots of culture, everyone has the same mission: to get where they are going. The subway. Like little worms in soil, letting everything breathe. The subway. Like little transporting bullets that shine in the sodium lights. The subway. The veins of the city, always working.

Mom

by Noah G.

She works hard at two jobs, one as a parent and the other as a doctor. A pediatrician actually, just for babies. She runs her clinic and runs her home, telling people what to do in both places. "Check their blood pressure." "Clean your room." As a mother she is good: she takes care of you when you're sick and makes you feel better when you're sad. She never puts you down; she only pulls you up. As good as she is at those two jobs, she isn't as good at cooking: just chicken, chicken, chicken; dry chicken, moist chicken, spicy chicken. Any kind, you name it. She is also very happy but less so since he got sick. Everything has changed since he got sick.

My Mitt

by Francesca G.

Whenever I play baseball in the schoolyard with my brother, I am good. My mitt catches all of the balls that he throws or hits to me. I am good at baseball. But whenever I play with his friends, I can't be good. They say that I can't play because I am a girl. My mitt fails me; it feels overwhelmed. It wants to show them what we can do. But it can't. Anti-feminism in seven-year-old boys is still, overwhelmingly, anti-feminism. Together, we're stronger, but only in the schoolyard. Without those seven-year-old boys.

The Frisbee Never Falls

by Isaac H.

They've never played frisbee before. It flies at them like a knife, but when it flies at my brother, it's like a cloud falling into his grip. We all watch the thing as it soars so high that it looks like a shooting star. We always play until someone catches the frisbee past the slide. The slide is yellow, banana yellow. It's a game of who can jump the highest and who can run the fastest. The mountains in the background look like they've been painted. Meanwhile, an immense yet playful game of frisbee is going on. They can get confused, yet are quickly reminded to keep running. When the frisbee hits the ground we all turn around and run the other way.

They've never played frisbee before. It flies at them like a knife, but when it flies at my brother, it's like a cloud falling into his grip.

The Man Who Slept on the Rock

by Ben L.

There was a man who lived on my block. He lived on a stone. Every day he would leave for a while just to come back with a few more pennies to put on his stone, and he would sleep on them just to wake up the next day and do the same. And every day I would walk past that corner where he lives and pass all his pennies spread out on the rock.

My young brother, who was probably three and maybe four, passed by that stone too, the one the man slept on, and because he loved pennies so much he took them all. All of the pennies. The ones the man had collected. Day after day after day after day.

Oh no!, my mom screamed in dismay. Put them back because they aren't yours; you didn't earn them, so now you return them.

My brother returned them and never touched a coin on the ground again. Because they might be somebody else's, he said.

As for the homeless man, I never saw him again.

Goggles

by Ryan M.

Ian has green and yellow lenses. I have orange and blue lenses. Jack has green lenses. My dad has dark blue lenses. My mom has silver lenses, her lenses are the best, the coolest. They fit her face perfectly, the frame matches her skin tone. When I put my goggles on, I see the world in orange and blue. When my mom puts her goggles on she sees the world in all silver. When my two brothers put their goggles on the world turns green. My dad sees everything in blue. We get into debates about what color the sky actually is when we all have our goggles on. We all see the world in different ways.

The Spitting Lady

by Andrew R.

I first met the spitting lady when I was in second grade. She was hollering at the top of her lungs in front of my building while I was walking past. You could see all the passersby doing the old New York trick of totally "not" noticing someone. My mom and I picked up a speedier pace and walked into my building and saw my doorman Mike kind of half looking out of the window at her, shrugging sadly. When we got upstairs my mom told me that she has been on that block forever and that it is best not to bother her and just to let her be. The government has a place for people like her, and the police still have to help her; but I think that the police are too scared to go near her and get screamed on. Over the next few weeks we could see this woman when she was acting normal, or when she was spitting on a crowd of people, or when she was screaming as though someone had impaled her. Each time we would change directions and go on another block or walk by more quickly.

The First Page

by Naree R.

Blank pages. My first sketchbook. I flip through, imagining the things I can create. I gather my materials, sit down, and draw. I pause, unable to start. I'm not ready to truly create something of my own. This first page intimidates me, for I do not want to ruin its pure white, untouched page. Like clean snow, when it has just fallen. So I start. But not on the first page. I start on the second. Yet I still cannot draw. So I look around, take inspiration from my surroundings. The bright sun, streaming through the clouds, reflected on my window and the buildings outside. I do not focus too much, I do not strive for perfection. Even at my young age, I knew not to get too caught up in achieving perfection right away. So I just draw. I draw what I see, what I feel, what I want. And so I filled up one page, after another, after another. Day by day. Until the sketchbook is full, except for my one, clean first page.

A Carful of Wood

by Maya S.

A lonely tree at the edge of our backyard is the tree we choose. Daddy and I bring back a carful of wood from the big store with the blue sign, and we get started. It is a lot of wood.

Making a tree house needs a lot of wood, says Daddy. I'll show you what to do. We can turn this wood into a house way up high.

All I see is a carful of wood, but if Daddy says it, it's true.

We saw the wood. Nail the wood. Sand the wood. Paint the wood. Then we do it again. Saw, nail, sand, paint, again and again.

Then winter comes. We cover the tree platform with a tarp and forget about it as winter ravages through the yard and the town. It is so easy to forget about things. Remembering them is harder.

Next summer, Daddy brings another carful of wood. He says, you can build anything with a carful of wood.

The Dugout

by Declan S.

The dugout was home for us. The only place where no one smiled and everyone was serious. We were determined kids who had one mission, to play ball. The dugout had a bench for everyone to sit on and put their bags down. It was horribly sawed and we all got splinters. It hurt like hell. Kind of like a pineapple, sweet on the inside but hard to handle. It was rough because it was made of wood and it was sweet because there was nowhere else we wanted to be. We could taste the breeze. It was a new day. No old wins or losses mattered, only today. I couldn't even see the ground because there were so many sunflower seeds and tobacco. This dugout had grit. When the fight broke out everyone ran out of the dugout. The dugout was as empty as a ghost town. It's as if the dugout, in that very moment, was extremely lonely. We never got back to the dugout that day.

“But, Mom! There’s Sand in My Pants”

by Morgan S.

All I could feel were the sand grains stuck to my skin, after a perfect beach day. I love boogie boarding, I love swimming, I love the ocean, I love lying in the sun, I love playing running bases, and I love pro kadima. But I absolutely can't stand it when sand grains are stuck to my body, all salty and sunburned. Sand is stuck to my hair, my sandals, my rashguard, and my bathing suit. The walk from the beach to the house is agony. Sand sticking to me and rubbing against me as I walk down the boardwalk is terrible. As I am walking along the boardwalk, I am leaving a wake of sand that is falling off my body. Once we go across the boardwalk to the pathway we are in the home stretch. The hose is close, really close. It feels like my body is a magnet and sand is metal shavings, and all the beach was dumped in my pants. I make a beeline for the hose, stick it into my trunks and fire it on full blast. The cold water hits me and I feel instant relief. I will then join Poppop for a shower in the infamous outdoor shower, which is crammed next to the garage. Debris is everywhere, paint is peeling off the walls. I am almost positive that there are more spiders in the outdoor shower than there are fish in the sea.

Tradition

by Carly W.

The bed. Big enough to fit 10 of me on it. I sit in a tiny little ball, my sister Maggie beside me. My grandmother heads toward us with a large box with beautiful designs on it. She plops it on the bed, making the blankets ruffle. She unlatches the latch and we are confronted with jewelry sprawled everywhere.

"Tradition!" Grandma sings.

"Tradition!" we sing back.

"Pick a necklace and a little soap," Grandma says, pointing to the little bowl in the corner filled with tiny sample soaps.

I chose a plastic green bead necklace, and a lavender scented soap. Maggie picks a real necklace, unlike the little plastic thing I chose, and a small bottle of shampoo. I run to my mother. I show her what I got. She says that's great! She puts the little green necklace around my neck and I hop up into her lap.

"Tradition," I say.

This is tradition.