Nicholosa Mohr Ray Anthony Shepard - Essay

Ray Anthony Shepard

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[Nilda] is a sensitive, well written and powerful story of a 10-year-old girl's growth into adolescence. Nilda is on her own because no one else survives. She must not only grow into adolescence, but she must learn what it means to be Puerto Rican and poor in America…. [She] must come to grips with a poverty that kills her step-father and eventually her mother….

At times the odds against Nilda, or any child, seem overpowering. At the end of four years her survival is still in doubt; one hopes she survives because as a reader one is so involved in her life, but even as the novel closes one can not be sure.

This is an outstanding first novel…. (p. 230)

Ray Anthony Shepard, in Children's Literature: Annual of The Modern Language Association Seminar on Children's Literature and The Children's Literature Association, Vol. 3, edited by Francelia Butler (© 1974 by Francelia Butler; all rights reserved), Temple University Press, 1974.

[The] thirteen glimpses of life in El Bronx [in El Bronx Remembered] have the ethnic flavor and nostalgia but little of the resilience of Nilda (1973). In fact it's the smallest stories that ring true here: Hector faces the embarrassment of wearing his uncle's tacky, pointed-toe shoes (real "matacucarachas") to his high school graduation; a pet hen named Joncrofo (Joan Crawford) defeats Mrs. Fernandez' determination to turn her into a chicken dinner; Hannibal plots to win well-chaperoned Serafina by joining her "aleluya" church. The several longer stories tend to get mired in sentimentality—particularly the memoir of a friendship between feeble, lonely Mr. Mendelsohn and the Suarez family next door, and the drawn-out failure of a marriage between pregnant, teenage Alice and covertly homosexual Hector. Mohr is almost too good at zeroing in on touching incidents; the danger is that her El Bronx can be too easily dismissed as quaint. But given their limited emotional range and narrow focus these will stand as grace notes, augmenting Nilda's more vital theme and spirit. (pp. 1004-05)

Kirkus Reviews (copyright © 1975 The Kirkus Service, Inc.), September 1, 1975.