Books by Nicholasa Mohr

A MATTER OF PRIDE by Nicholasa Mohr
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: June 15, 1997

Seven stories that focus on the lives of Hispanic women offer some intriguing possibilities, but the repetitiveness of the plots and the similarities of the characters' epiphanies lessen the impact. Told in a disappointing prose that explains rather than explores, Mohr's tales all touch on the lives of displaced women coming to terms with the restrictions of their culture. The title piece is symptomatic: In 1959, Paula and Charlie leave their native New York for a honeymoon in Puerto Rico. Paula expects the vacation of her dreams, but Charlie takes off with some old buddies and refuses to return until he's had his bit of fun—which leaves Paula in the restrictive house of relatives, where she's told how a new Puerto Rican wife is to act: A husband's infidelities are expected, and ironing his shirts so that he's presentable to his mistress is a matter of domestic pride. Paula realizes that she can't live so limited a life and opts for independence. Several stories are identical in agenda, depicting young Puerto Rican New Yorkers breaking free of their oppressive relationships with domineering men to explore their own identities. ``Memories: R.I.P.'' diverges in telling the tale of a close-knit family in the 1950s torn apart when an older brother starts to sell heroin from their South Bronx apartment. Younger sister Patty returns to the old neighborhood many years later to witness the urban decay that the onslaught of drugs—and indirectly her own family's complicity—helped create. ``Utopia, and the Super Estrellas'' presents a congenial portrait of transvestites in a remote mountain village, but the few stories that transcend the author's narrow pattern don't do enough to make up for the overall sameness of the collection. Mohr (Rituals of Survival, 1985), also a children's author, attempts a feminist interpretation, but the conclusions are often more facile than persuasive. Read full book review >
OLD LETIVIA AND THE MOUNTAIN OF SORROWS by Nicholasa Mohr
CHILDREN'S
Released: June 1, 1996

This challenging fantasy by Mohr (The Magic Shell, 1995, etc.) will appeal to more able readers. The long story concerns a curandera, or healer, her whistling turtle, Cervantes (who is a magician), and a tiny boy, Simon, found floating in the river. When the village is besieged by terrible wind, the villagers go to Letivia for help. Letivia, Simon, and Cervantes travel to the faraway Mountain of Sorrows, enduring many perils along the way until they confront the wind who, as it turns out, has gotten stuck in the mountain by mistake and would like nothing more than to be free. Letivia accomplishes this and is granted four wishes in return. The story's rambling structure has less to do with the typical folktale than with the quests found in fantasy books for older readers. Gutierrez's pictures, too, are somewhat reminiscent of the work of fantasy artists, with bizarre and ferocious creatures. While the tale is not suited to all tastes, it should please attentive readers. (Picture book. 3-8) Read full book review >
THE MAGIC SHELL by Nicholasa Mohr
CHILDREN'S
Released: Sept. 1, 1995

Jaime doesn't want to leave his home in the Dominican Republic when his father gets a good job in New York City. Arriving there in the winter is unlike anything he has known: He speaks no English, he can't enter school until his records arrive, and he is lonely, angry, and homesick. Until Jaime begins to make friends, his only solace is a conch shell given to him by his uncle that helps him relive memories of home. Many of these scenes are captured in Gutierrez's realistic black-and-white illustrations. Given its dramatic theme (stranger in a strange land, caught between cultures) and its patina of magic, this competently told story is surprisingly bland. Mohr (Nicholasa Mohr: Growing Up Inside the Sanctuary of My Imagination, 1994, etc.) tacks on a moral about inner strength that is gratuitous, since Jaime has not exhibited any such strength: When he has no friends, everything is terrible, and as soon as he meets other kids, all is well. (Fiction. 7-10) Read full book review >
BIOGRAPHY
Released: June 1, 1994

A too-infrequent author recalls the people and incidents that helped shape her ``private reality'' in her first 14 years. Writing in a characteristically direct but slightly gawky style (``...my mother longed for the beauty of her island, for the language and enrichment of her people''), Mohr depicts an unhappy youth marked by tragedy and by difficult but not insurmountable obstacles: being ``female, Puerto-Rican and poor'' in Spanish Harlem and the South Bronx in the 1940s, she encountered plenty of open prejudice, especially at her public school, and (aside from holiday celebrations) little occasion for joy. She did find solace in drawing and painting and in her mother's steady love. The women— her mother and her batty Aunt Maria—are most clearly realized here, while friends and the men in her family (her father and six older brothers) remain in the background. Though Mohr didn't become a writer until later (she summarizes her adult years in an epilogue), she shows how themes that have occupied her—the joys and sorrows of life in the barrio, the slanted view of Hispanic character and culture in books and films—were planted in her consciousness early. Like others in the In My Own Words series, less an account of events than a revealing glimpse into the author's psyche. Bibliography. (Autobiography. 11+) Read full book review >