Nilda by Nicholasa Mohr
"Damn you bastards, coming here making trouble. Bunch of animals." The two police offers responding to a call about an open fire hydrant lash out furiously at the Puerto Rican residents of New York City's El Barrio neighborhood. It's the summer of 1941, and all ten-year-old Nilda wants to do is enjoy the cool water with her friends. But the policemen's curses end their fun, and their animosity is played out over and over again in Nilda's life. She is repeatedly treated with contempt and even disgust by adults in positions of authority: teachers, nurses and social workers.
At home, though, she is surrounded by a large and loving--if somewhat eccentric--family that supports and encourages her artistic abilities. She experiences the onset of World War II and watches anxiously as several brothers go off to war; her stepfather s poor health means he can t work, causing serious financial difficulties for the family; one brother slinks off to the underworld, leaving behind a pregnant girlfriend, adding two more mouths to feed to the family s already dire situation.