Introduction to Latina and Latino Literature/Nicholasa Mohr
Nicholasa Mohr was born in New York, New York in 1935 to parents who immigrated from Puerto Rico. Mohr's hardships began at a young age; at eight years old her father passed away. Her father was survived by his wife who he left with seven children. Considering her family's circumstances, Mohr decided that she would use her creativity to escape the poverty they were living in. Mohr began painting, and seemed to enjoy expressing herself through her work. After high school Mohr attended the Arts Student's League in New York where she learned about the two artists who were her inspiration for traveling to New Mexico. After returning to the United States in 1959 Mohr attended the New School for Social Research, this was a critical stage of her life because it allowed her to learn more about herself and what she wanted to do. Mohr became interested in social change and her art allowed her to grow the awareness to address the issues. Because Mohr painted such perfect pictures, which included words, that directly addressed her life in a city of poverty for minorities, Mohr decided to switch from visual art to short stories in order to better explain her experiences and tell the story to young adults in a way that they could relate because she "remember[ed] there were no books about Puerto Rican children or [their] culture."  This made her one of the best Nuyorican writers leading her to several awards. Her work has received several prizes, among them the 1974 Jane Addams Children’s Book Award and The New York Times Outstanding Book of the Year. She was also a National Book Award finalist. 
Place in Latina/o Literature
Mohr's place in Latina/o literature arises from a period where being a Puerto Rican in New York meant facing poverty. However, Mohr's stories do not only discuss the experiences of a Nuyorican. Most importantly, Mohr's stories address the difficulties a Puerto Rican woman faced, not only in New York, but in the United States. Her movement helped young adults face the life they were given based on their culture.
Analysis of Specific Texts
In Nicholasa Mohr's "The English Lesson" a group of students go to Susan Hamma's class to learn English in order to better their lives. During once of the classes, Ms. Hamma's asks the student to talk about where they come from and what they want to do after leaving her class. All the students, except Diego Torres, want to become American citizens because they know they will become more successful in the United States than in their own home country. However, Diego Torres thinks differently and has no desire to become a citizen because he is Dominican and proud. Torres goes on to argue that he is only in the United States to make money and will be going back to be happy because he can live a simple life and simply.
One of the themes Mohr is addressing here is the views people have on immigration. This is interesting because most people in this story really want to work and become successful in this country so they can eventually give back. For example, all the students in Ms. Hammas class wanted to be in her English class because they wanted to learn the language in order to better their lives in America because they understand that they must know the language to become successful. On the other hand, Diego Torres represents the person who many Americans in today's society dislike because they are here taking peoples jobs away and "using" the country in order to become successful elsewhere.
The above theme is controversial because many times all illegal aliens are stereotyped to be taking away the jobs of American citizen's. By Mohr creating characters who represent both sides she is trying to challenge the beliefs people have and prove that all immigrants are not the same and that although some may have a different plan for themselves, many are really in the United States to better their lives and stay in the country who allowed them to do so.
Links to Online Copies of the Text
"The English Lesson": http://atlasabe.org/_literature_134902/EDUC_6998-Reading-ESL12
An Interview with Nicholasa Mohr. Geraldine DeLuca and Roni Natov http://atlasabe.org/_literature_134902/EDUC_6998-Reading-ESL12
Biography of Secondary Sources
- Univeristy of Minessota: Driven to Discovery - Nicholasa Mohr
- The Heath Anthology of American Literature, Fifth Edition