Edgardo Vega Yunqué

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This name uses Spanish naming customs: the first or paternal family name is Vega and the second or maternal family name is Yunqué.
Edgardo Vega Yunqué
Born Edgardo Vega Yunqué
(1936-05-20)May 20, 1936
Ponce, Puerto Rico
Died August 26, 2008(2008-08-26) (aged 72)
Brooklyn, NY
Occupation novelist, professor
Nationality Puerto Rican
Period 1977–2008
Genre novel, short story
Notable works No Matter How Much You Promise to Cook or Pay the Rent You Blew It Cauze Bill Bailey Ain't Never Coming Home Again (2003)
The Lamentable Journey of Omaha Bigelow into the Impenetrable Loisaida Jungle (2004)
Notable awards PEN Oakland/Josephine Miles Literary Award
Children Tim, Alyson, Matthew, Suzanne (stepdaughter)

Edgardo Vega Yunqué (May 20, 1936 – August 26, 2008) was a Puerto Rican novelist and short-story writer, who also used the Americanized pen name Ed Vega.

Early years[edit]

Edgardo Vega Yunqué was born in Ponce to Alberto Vega, a Baptist minister, and Abigail Yunqué, and lived in Cidra, Puerto Rico, until his family moved to the South Bronx in 1949. Even as a child he loved to read, and became familiar with many of the great European works. His seminal influences included Cervantes, Azorín, Borges, Unamuno, Lope de Vega, Victor Hugo, and members of the Generation of '27 literary movement.[1]

Upon graduating from high school in 1954, he joined the United States Air Force.[2] During his leave time Vega focused on reading and analysis of American literature, after finding a large collection of books at his sister's house.[1]

After his Air Force service Vega attended Santa Monica College, and eventually got his degree from New York University. He dropped out of school temporarily after the assassination of U.S. President John F. Kennedy, and worked in East Harlem as part of the war on poverty.

Vega was married to Pat Vega née Patricia Jean Schumacher on December 31, 1961; their marriage ended in divorce in 1997. They had three children: Alyson, Matthew, and Tim. Vega was also the stepfather of Suzanne.


Vega focused on writing since 1972 and published his first short story "Wild Horses" in Nuestra Magazine in 1977.[1] He wrote 14 novels and 3 story collections.[1] He said that he often worked on several books at once and had no problem keeping track of them:

Since my work is about people and my affection for them, I don’t lose track of who they are just like I don’t lose track of my children or other relatives and acquaintances. I have friends – and characters – whom I don’t see for a long time, but as soon as we get together we pick up where we left off.[1]

Vega's literary influences were subtle and complex. In addition to William Faulkner, John Steinbeck, Ernest Hemingway, and the magic realist writers, he was heavily influenced by Holocaust literature and by the concern of the Irish members of his childhood neighborhood, for the independence and reunion of their native country.[1]

Vega's published fiction includes the novels The Comeback, Blood Fugues, The Lamentable Journey of Omaha Bigelow into the Impenetrable Loisaida Jungle, and No Matter How Much You Promise to Cook or Pay the Rent You Blew It Cauze Bill Bailey Ain't Never Coming Home Again. His short story collections include Mendoza's Dreams and Casualty Report, which were adapted for the stage and anthologized internationally.[3]

Critical acclaim[edit]

Bill Bailey[edit]

Critical reception of the novel No Matter How Much You Promise to Cook or Pay the Rent You Blew It Cauze Bill Bailey Ain't Never Coming Home Again was positive. The New York Times Book Review called it "a powerhouse of a novel ... it brings vividly to life, with its polyphony of voices, the simmering ethnic stew of the great American city."[4] Booklist hailed it as a "hypnotically readable novel--about jazz, about race, about coming-of-age, and above all, about New York ... honest, wrenching emotion, free of all artifice ... Vega Yunque may just be the Thomas Wolfe of the multicultural twenty-first century."[5]

The Washington Post described it as "a sprawling, iconoclastic, ambitious, stunningly written novel that is part picaresque, part bildungsroman, and part recapitulation of America's last half century ... Like jazz and like America, this novel is fluid, unpredictable, full of verve and smarts. But it is not merely an entertainment. Deeply revisionist, tinged with tragedy and yet doggedly optimistic, this is a work that belongs on the shelf with its epic siblings: E.L. Doctorow's Ragtime and Thomas Pynchon's Vineland."[6]

Newsday found it "juicy, sprawling ... Yunqué succeeds brilliantly." The New York Post called it "a profound novel in the tradition of Ralph Ellison and William Faulkner."[6] The novel also won the PEN Oakland/Josephine Miles Literary Award and the Washington Post Book of the Year Award.[7]

Omaha Bigelow[edit]

Vega's reputation grew with The Lamentable Journey of Omaha Bigelow into the Impenetrable Loisaida Jungle.

Kirkus Reviews declared the book a "raucous outing ... his characters hold forth in hilarious broken Spanglish ... vivid, wry, tragicomic ... Vega Yunqué is a potent talent."[8] According to Booklist, Vega's "ribald and rambling style reverberates throughout his third novel ... he deftly skewers the politics of academia, the tyranny of mediocrity in contemporary American literature, and America's ongoing prejudice against Puerto Ricans. Vega, unlike many formulaic novels he disparages, definitely has a lot to say."[9]

Publishers Weekly announced that "Vega Yunqué has a keen intelligence, an ear for dialogue and a flair for zany passages of magic realism."[10]

Blood Fugues[edit]

His subsequent novel Blood Fugues solidified Vega Yunqué's international reputation as a literary novelist.

Publishers Weekly wrote that "Yunqué writes with grace, vividly evoking New York City and American life."

Booklist announced "the author is a bravura storyteller with an extraordinary ability to create fascinating, emotion-engaging characters...the novel's subplots involving political terrorism and immigrant resistance to imposed assimilation are absolutely relevant to today's America."[11]

Kirkus Reviews noted the book’s "distinctive architecture, mystery and suspense," that it was "highly descriptive," and contained "all the features of fine drama."[12]

Short story collections[edit]

Vega's short story collections also met with critical acclaim.

The San Francisco Chronicle announced that in Mendoza's Dreams Vega "shows us, in twelve funny and personality-laden tales, that there is indeed much more to life in Spanish Harlem than gang warfare; set to the strains of Bernstein and Sondheim."

Kirkus Reviews called Mendoza's Dreams "a dozen loving comic fables about the Puerto Rican experience in New York City…well-written, affecting and gritty tales of El Barrio life: reality beginning in dreams.[13]

The Village Voice Literary Supplement found Casualty Report to be "brilliantly traced ... a multivocal journey through layers of miscegenated consciousness, intensely bound to a nation that often works like a dream."

Library Journal praised Vega’s portrayal of "the consuming struggles and sorrows of Puerto Ricans in New York ... the stories betray a deep concern and love for people living precariously between two worlds. A fine, provocative addition for Latino and large general fiction collections."[14]

Activism and advocacy[edit]

Vega was the campaign manager for the first political campaign of New York State Assemblyman Nelson Antonio Denis,[15][16] and served as the first Executive Director of the El Barrio Local Development Corporation (EBLDC).

He taught creative writing at the Latin American Writers Institute, the Teachers & Writers Collaborative, the New School for Social Research, as well as at Hostos Community College, Hunter College, and SUNY Old Westbury.

He also served as Director of the Clemente Soto Vélez Cultural and Educational Center,[2][17] and as a counselor to ASPIRA and the Addiction Service Agency.[18]


External video
Video about the life and work of Ed Vega on YouTube
Video from the Ed Vega memorial service (with many family photos) on YouTube

Vega died on August 26, 2008 from a possible thrombosis at Lutheran Medical Center in Brooklyn, New York City.

At the time of his death, Vega had completed the novel How That Dirty Rotten Charlie Maisonet Turned Me into a Puerto Rican Sex Freak and was finishing the story collection A Place of Remembrance on an Island Called Regret and the nonfiction book Spic, Writing Under the Threat of Censorship in the United States: A Jeremiad.

The New York Times obituary hailed Vega's honesty and his "picaresque, combustive and sometimes flamboyantly comic expressions of the Puerto Rican experience in New York’s multicultural maelstrom."[19]

David Gonzalez of the New York Times blogged that "his novels captured the crazy glory of this city and its people, with jazzy riffs and elegant solos that flowed with rhythm. His words could dazzle, amuse and even infuriate."[3]

The New York Daily News noted that Mr. Vega had authored 17 novels.[20]

Major works[edit]

His first novel and both short story collections were published under the name "Ed Vega".


  • The Comeback. Houston: Arte Público, 1985.
  • No Matter How Much You Promise to Cook or Pay the Rent You Blew It Cauze Bill Bailey Ain't Never Coming Home Again. New York: Farrar, 2003.
  • The Lamentable Journey of Omaha Bigelow into the Impenetrable Loisaida Jungle. Woodstock and New York: Overlook, 2004.
  • Blood Fugues. New York: Rayo, HarperCollins, 2005.
  • Rebecca Horowitz, Puerto Rican Sex Freak (cancelled in last-minute dispute with publisher).[21]

Short story collections[edit]

  • Mendoza's Dreams. Houston: Arte Público, 1987.
  • Casualty Report. Houston: Arte Público, 1991.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Official bio on his website[dead link]
  2. ^ a b biography by Antonia Domínguez Miguela
  3. ^ a b http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/09/08/chronicler-of-new-york-leaves-the-scene/?scp=2&sq=Edgardo%20Vega%20Yunque&st=cse
  4. ^ http://www.nytimes.com/2003/12/14/books/sax-and-the-city.html?pagewanted=all&src=pm
  5. ^ http://staging.booklistonline.com/No-Matter-How-Much-You-Promise-to-Cook-or-Pay-the-Rent-You-Blew-It-Cauze-Bill-Bailey-Ain-t-Never-Coming-Home-Again-Edgardo-Vega-Yunque/pid=218632
  6. ^ a b http://www.amazon.com/Matter-Promise-Bailey-Coming-Symphonic/dp/product-description/0312424027/ref=dp_proddesc_0?ie=UTF8&n=283155&s=books
  7. ^ http://www.brooklynrail.org/2008/09/express/not-available-at-your-local-bookstore
  8. ^ https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/edgardo-vega-yunque-2/the-lamentable-journey-of-omaha-bigelow-into-the-i/#review
  9. ^ http://www.amazon.com/Lamentable-Journey-Bigelow-Impenetrable-Loisaida/dp/1585676306
  10. ^ http://www.publishersweekly.com/978-1-58567-630-9
  11. ^ http://www.amazon.com/Blood-Fugues-Edgardo-Vega-Yunque/dp/B000HWYJEY
  12. ^ https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/edgardo-vega-yunque-2/blood-fugues/#review
  13. ^ https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/ed-vega/mendozas-dreams/
  14. ^ http://www.amazon.com/Casualty-Report-Edgardo-Vega-Yunqu%C3%A9/dp/1558850341
  15. ^ Navarro, Mireya, (5/6/03), Smile, You're on Candidate Camera: With an Insider's Eye, a Film Skewers Harlem Politics, The New York Times, http://voteforme-themovie.com/articles/nytimes.pdf
  16. ^ Hicks, Jonathan, (8/19/96), Rising Stars Battle in East Harlem, The New York Times, http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9F01EFDF1430F93AA2575BC0A960958260
  17. ^ Carmen Dolores Hernández. "Ed Vega." Puerto Rican Voices in English: Interviews with Writers, Praeger-Greenwood, 1997. p.197. (accessed through Google Book Search)
  18. ^ http://www.uhu.es/antonia.dominguez/docs/entry_EdVega.pdf
  19. ^ Weber, Bruce (2008-09-09). "Edgardo Vega Yunqué, Novelist of the Puerto Rican Experience in New York, Dies at 72.". New York Times. 
  20. ^ Vega, Maria (9 September 2008). "Puerto Rican novelist Ed Vega Yunqué dead at 72". New York Daily News. Retrieved 21 February 2014. 
  21. ^ Lockwood, Alan (September 2008). Not Available at Your Local Bookseller: Edgardo Vega Yunqué’s Latest Novel. The Brooklyn Rail
  22. ^ "Rebecca Horowitz, Puerto Rican Sex Freak". Publishers Weekly. 2008-07-01. 
  23. ^ "PEN Oakland Awards". 

Further reading[edit]

  • Binder,Wolfgang. "Interview: Ed Vega." American Contradictions: Interviews with Nine American Writers. Eds. Wolfgang Binder and Helmbrecht Breining. Hanover and London: Wesleyan UP, UP of New England, 1995, 125-142.
  • "A Hispanic Voice of Satire: Ed Vega’s Portrait of the Puerto Rican Community." Voix et Langages aux Etats-Unis. Tome I. Ed. Serge Ricard. Aix-en-Provence: Univ. de Provence, 1993, 229-243.
  • Hernández, Carmen Dolores. "Ed Vega." Puerto Rican Voices in English: Interviews with Writers. Wesport: Praeger, 1997, 196-225.
  • Pérez, Richard. "Literary Pre/occupations: An Interview with Puerto Rican Author Edgardo Vega Yunqué." Centro Journal 18.1 (2006): 188-205.
  • Edgardo Vega Yunqué (1936-) By: David de Posada, IN: West-Durán, Herrera-Sobek, and Salgado, Latino and Latina Writers, I: Introductory Essays, Chicano and Chicana Authors; II: Cuban and Cuban American Authors, Dominican and Other Authors, Puerto Rican Authors. New York, NY: Scribner's; 2004. pp. 1019–1030.

External links[edit]