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.