November 1st – Nicholasa Mohr

Nicholasa Mohr was born on November 1st, 1938, in Manhattan, New York.  She is the best-known and most published Nuyorican writers – first and second-generation Puerto Ricans living in New York who integrate Spanish and English language and American and Puerto Rican cultures. 

Her mother, Nicholasa Rivera, had moved from Puerto Rico to Spanish Harlem during the Depression. After meeting and marrying Pedro Golpe, the couple moved to the Bronx, and the young Nicholasa grew up in the Bronx with six brothers and sisters. 

Her father died when she was eight, and Nicholasa found solace in writing and reading and began spending time at the New York Public Library, getting a job as a page just after junior high.

Mohr studied fashion illustration in High School, and through her hard work, won scholarships to pursue her studies in art. She went on to the Art Students League, then, inspired by the words of Diego Rivera and José Clemente Orozco, she went to study in Mexico. After returning to the States, she attended the New School for Social Research, where she met her husband, Irwin Mohr. They were married from 1957 until he died in 1980. They have two sons, David and Jason

In 1959 she continued to study art at the Brooklyn Museum of Art School and Pratt Graphics Center. She had a successful career in graphic design and the fine arts before turning to fiction writing in the 1970s. 

Her first novel, the semi-autobiographical Nilda, was published in 1973. It won the 1974 Jane Addams Children’s Book Award. Reflection of Mohr’s own experiences, Nilda’s mother encourages her to find agency as a woman through education and self-expression in art. The New York Times review of Nilda describes it as “Sad, funny, fascinating and honest, it will appeal to adults as well as children.” 

With the publication of Nilda by Harper &” Row, Mohr was the first Puerto Rican woman to have her work published by a major American publishing house. She also designed the cover of the first edition.

First edition of Nilda for sale on Biblio.com by Type Punch Matrix

Mohr’s second book, El Bronx Remembered, was published in 1975 by Harper & Row. It is a collection of stories and a novella about the experiences of Puerto Ricans living in New York. El Bronx Remembered named a New Times Outstanding Book Award, making Mohr the first Latina woman to receive such an honor. It was also a National Book Award finalist. 

She has written fifteen books, including Felita, Going Home, and A Matter of Pride and Other Stories. From 1988 through 1991, she taught at Queens College, City University of New York. From 1994 through 1995, she was Writer-in-Residence at Richmond College, the American University in London.

Lesson from Mohr:

Growing up Mohr didn’t see herself or her culture represented in books – so she wrote them herself. Her writing and art helped her understand the world and inspired others in her neighborhood and beyond. 

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