I read The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros for the first time when I was 15 years old. During my sophomore year of high school my English teacher gave us the assignment to choose a book and write a paper about a social issue raised in it. Me, being over ambitious, decided to read The House on Mango Street and write my paper about Mexican assimilation in the United States. I find myself re-reading this book at least once a year and my favorite vignette is called “Bums in the attic.” I have re-typed it below:
Bums in the Attic
I want a house on a hill like the ones with the gardens where papa works. We go on Sundays, Papa’s day off. I used to go. I don’t anymore. You don’t like to go out with us, Papa says. Getting to old? Getting too stuck-up, says Nenny. I don’t tell them I am ashamed– all of us staring out the window like the hungry. I am tired of looking at what we can’t have. When we win the lottery…Mama begins, and then I stop listening.
People who live on the hills sleep so close to the stars they forget those of us who live too much on earth. They don’t look down at all except to be content to live on hills. They have nothing to do with last week’s garbage or fear of rats. Night comes. Nothing wakes them but the wind.
One day I’ll own my own house, but I won’t forget who I am or where I came from. Passing bums will ask, Can I come in? I’ll offer them the attic, ask them to stay, because I know how it is to be without a house.
Some days after dinner, guests and I will sit in front of a fire. Floorboards will squeak upstairs. The attic grumble.
Rats? they’ll ask.
Bums, I’ll say, and I’ll be happy.