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Josefina Niggli, Mexican American Writer

A Critical Biography

Elizabeth Coonrod Martínez

Publication Year: 2007

This is the story of a remarkable woman whose artistic mission was to relate Mexican cultural history to English-language readers. A world-renowned playwright in the 1930s and best-selling novelist in the 1940s, Josefina Niggli published at a time when Chicana/o literature was not yet recognized as such. Her works revealed Mexico from an insider's point of view, although she found herself struggling with publishers who wanted an American hero pitted against a Mexican villain.

Published by: University of New Mexico Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. vii-viii


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pp. ix-x

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Chapter One. Introduction and Early Life 1910–1935

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pp. 1-27

In the early twentieth century, women artists and intellectuals who wished to create and publish had to swim against the stream. Many young women continued traditionally defined roles, while the more daring intrepidly followed their dreams and embarked on careers, carving a new path for women. They attended college and traveled alone, weaving their way between the...

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Chapter Two. Playmaking in North Carolina 1935–1942

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pp. 28-114

The Carolina Playmakers—a company that rose to national prominence by the early 1930s—was founded in 1918 at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, with the hiring of an inspiring leader and professor of dramatic literature, Frederick H. Koch. Modeled on the community-theater idea, its specific purpose was to produce student plays, and to provide theatrical events...

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Chapter Three. Books and Novels and Hollywood 1942–1953

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pp. 115-204

Niggli had taken on Paul Green’s desk job at the University of North Carolina during the early 1940s (according to her correspondence with him), handling administrative and academic matters pertaining to the Carolina Playmakers. Green had gone to Hollywood for an indeterminate time. In her letters, Niggli discusses programmatic issues, facilitates business affairs by enclosing forms where he can simply “check off” or sign, and is always personable...

Image Plates

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pp. 205-216

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Chapter Four. A Final Novel and Teaching 1953–1983

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pp. 217-277

Despite the release of a major film, an opera in San Francisco, and a musical play in Santa Barbara, Niggli gave up on California and once again returned to Chapel Hill. Now in her forties, she desired a permanent teaching job above all other possibilities. But it was a period of U.S. history, known as the McCarthy era, that was not favorable to writers. In 1953, the House Un-American Activities Committee hearings were in full swing. Some writers left the country...

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Chapter Five. Conclusions: Niggli’s Legacy and Resurgence

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pp. 278-290

In 1980 husband-and-wife scholars from South Carolina contacted Niggli and asked to interview her. Paula Shirley wanted to write an in-depth biographical essay on Niggli for the Dictionary of Literary Biography Yearbook. She and her husband Carl, who tagged along and asked as many questions, are both Spanish professors (she also specialized in women’s studies, he in theater). They...


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pp. 291-297

Niggli’s Works

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pp. 298-302


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pp. 303-310


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pp. 311-317

E-ISBN-13: 9780826342737
E-ISBN-10: 0826342736
Print-ISBN-13: 9780826342720
Print-ISBN-10: 0826342728

Page Count: 327
Illustrations: 12 halftones
Publication Year: 2007