3 minute read

Nicholasa Mohr: 1938—: Writer

Studied Art

Mohr was born on November 1, 1938, to Pedro and Nicholasa (Rivera) Golpe. Her mother moved from Puerto Rico during the Great Depression to East Harlem (El Barrio) with her four children. She married Pedro Golpe, and Mohr was one of three children born to this union, and the only girl. Not long after their move to America, the family relocated to the Bronx. When Mohr was only eight years old her father died. To help her deal with her bereavement her mother supplied Mohr with paper, a pencil, and some crayons with which she began drawing and writing. The author associated these tools with the word magic, because they were a means of escape. She referred to this in her Something about the Author Autobiography Series (SAAS) essay, "by making pictures and writing letters I could create my own world … like 'magic.'" Not long after this Mohr was almost tucked away in a trade school to become a seamstress; according to a counselor, a Puerto Rican girl did not need an education. Mohr remembered the words of her mother, who told her to continue to use her talent, according to SAAS. On her own, Mohr located a school that offered a major in fashion design that enabled her to continue to draw.

Mohr's mother died long before she completed high school, but the independence and self-worth she instilled in her daughter proved to be long-lasting. Although her aunt became her legal guardian, she failed to supply Mohr with the motivation and strength she had gained from her mother. Mohr, on the other hand, was determined to be an artist. Upon graduation, Mohr went to the Arts Students's League in New York City to pursue her dream of becoming an artist. She worked her way through art school and saved enough money to continue her education. Fascinated with Mexican murals and the artists who created them, Mohr traveled to Mexico City to study them. When she returned to New York City, Mohr continued her education at the New School for Social Research. She also met Irwin Mohr, whom she married and with whom she later had 2 sons, David and Jason.

At a Glance . . .

Born Nicholasa Golpe on November 1, 1938, in New York, NY; widowed; children: David, Jason. Education: Arts Students' League in New York, 1953-56; New School for Social Research in New York City; Brooklyn Museum Art School, fine art, 1959-66; Pratt Center for Contemporary Printmaking, printmaking and silkscreening, 1966-69. Religion: Catholic.

Career: Fine arts painter in New York, California, and Puerto Rico, 1957-58; printmaker in New York and Mexico, 1965–; Art Center of Northern New Jersey, art instructor, 1971-73; MacDowell Colony, Peterborough, NH, writer in residence, 1972, 1974, and 1976; State University of New York at Stony Brook, lecturer in Puerto Rican studies, 1977; Queens College of the City University of New York, distinguished visiting professor, 1988-91; visiting lecturer in creative writing for various educator, librarian, student, and community groups; head creative writer and co-producer of videotape series Aqui y Ahora.

Memberships: New Jersey State Council on the Arts, board of trustees; Consultant for the Young Filmmakers Foundation; consultant on Bilingual Media Training for Young Filmmakers Video Arts; board of contributing editors of Nuestro; Authors Guild; Authors League of America.

Awards: Outstanding Book Award in Juvenile Fiction, 1973; Jane Adams Children's Book Award, Jane Addams Peace Association, 1974; MacDowell Colony writing fellowship, 1974; Outstanding Book Award in Teenage Fiction, New York Times, 1975; Best Book Award, School Library Journal, 1975; honorary doctorate, State University of New York at Albany.

In an interview with children's book historian, author, and critic Marcus Leonard in Publisher's Weekly, Mohr openly discussed her childhood as an unpleasant experience. She stated that "early on there were times that [I] felt like [I] was entering into hostile territory." Mohr went on to say that in the 1950s when the Puerto Ricans flourished in New York City, she felt "less isolated." Like other Latinas, Mohr often incorporated these compelling accounts into her various artistic works. One could say that her feelings were transformed onto her paper, and therefore what was published as fiction, in reality was non-fiction.

Additional topics

Brief BiographiesBiographies: Barbara Barbieri McGrath (1953–) Biography - Personal to Fridtjof Nansen (1861–1930) BiographyNicholasa Mohr: 1938—: Writer Biography - Studied Art, Transitioned To Writing, Continued Writing