Oscar Hijuelos

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Oscar Jerome Hijuelos
Oscar Hijuelos, Miami Book Fair International, 1993.jpg
Hijuelos at the Miami Book Fair International, 1993
Born August 24, 1951
New York City, New York, U.S.
Died October 12, 2013(2013-10-12) (aged 62)
New York City, New York, U.S.
Occupation Novelist
Language English
Nationality American
Ethnicity Cuban American
Education B.A.; M.A. English [1]
Alma mater City College of New York [1]
Period 1983–2013[1]
Genre Cuban/American, Latino: fiction and memoirs
Notable works The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love (1989)
Notable awards Rome Prize (American Academy in Rome) (1985)
Pulitzer Prize (1990)
Hispanic Heritage Award for Literature (2000) [1]
Spouse Lori Marie Carlson[2]

Oscar Jerome Hijuelos (August 24, 1951 – October 12, 2013) was an American-born novelist of Cuban descent. During a year-long convalescence from a childhood illness spent in a Connecticut hospital he lost his knowledge of Spanish, his parents' native language. [clarification needed] He was educated in New York City, and wrote short stories and advertising copy.

For his second novel, adapted for the movie The Mambo Kings, he became the first Hispanic to win a Pulitzer Prize for fiction.[1][3] Hijuelos died at age 62 in 2013 after collapsing with a heart attack while playing tennis in New York.

Early life[edit]

Hijuelos was born in Morningside Heights, Manhattan, to Cuban immigrant parents, Pascual and Magdalena (Torrens) Hijuelos, both from Holguín, Cuba.[1][4][5] His father worked as a hotel cook.[6] As a young child, he suffered from acute nephritis after a vacation trip to Cuba with his mother and brother José, and was in St. Luke's Convalescent Hospital, Greenwich, Connecticut for almost a year, eventually recovering.[4] During this long period separated from his Spanish-speaking family, he learned fluent English; he later wrote of this time: "I became estranged from the Spanish language and, therefore, my roots."[6]

He attended Corpus Christi School in Morningside Heights,[7] and public schools, and later Bronx Community College, Lehman College and Manhattan Community College. He studied writing at the City College of New York (B.A., 1975; M.A. in Creative Writing, 1976)[7] under Donald Barthelme, Susan Sontag, William S. Burroughs, Frederic Tuten, and others.[4] Barthelme became his mentor and friend.[8] He practiced various professions, including working for an advertising agency, Transportation Displays Inc., before taking up writing full-time.[4]

Writing[edit]

Hijuelos started writing short stories and dramas while working in advertising.[9] His first novel, Our House in the Last World, was published in 1983, and won the Rome Prize of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.[9] This novel follows the life of a Cuban family in the United States during the 1940s.

His second novel, The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love, received the 1990 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. It was adapted in 1992 into the film The Mambo Kings, starring Armand Assante and Antonio Banderas, and as a musical in 2005.[6][10] In its theme of the American immigrant experience, The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love was similar to many of his works.[10] Michiko Kakutani, reviewing the novel for The New York Times, describes it as "essentially elegiac in tone — a Chekhovian lament for a life of missed connections and misplaced dreams."[11] His autobiography, Thoughts Without Cigarettes, was published in 2011.[10] Bruce Weber, writing in the New York Times, described his style as "fluid prose, sonorous but more earthy than poetic, with a forthright American cadence."[6]

His influences included writers from Cuba and Latin America, including Carlos Fuentes, José Lezama Lima and Gabriel García Márquez.[10] Hijuelos expressed discomfort in his memoir with being pigeon-holed as an ethnic writer.[10] Weber states "Unlike that of many well-known Latin writers, his work was rarely outwardly political."[6]

Teaching[edit]

Hijuelos taught at Hofstra University and was affiliated with Duke University, where he was a member of the faculty of the Department of English.[12]

Awards[edit]

In addition to the 1990 Pulitzer Prize, Hijuelos received an Ingram Merrill Foundation Award in 1983, the year he published his first novel, Our House in the Last World. In 1985 the novel received the Rome Prize, awarded by the American Academy in Rome. In 2000, he received the Hispanic Heritage Award for Literature.[9][13]

Personal life[edit]

Hijuelos' first marriage ended in divorce. He married writer and editor Lori Marie Carlson on December 12, 1998 in Manhattan.[6]

Death[edit]

On October 12, 2013, Oscar Hijuelos collapsed of a heart attack while playing tennis in Manhattan and never regained consciousness.[14] He was 62 years old. He is survived by his second wife.[6]

Bibliography[edit]

Major works[edit]

Contributions[edit]

  • Preface, Iguana Dreams: New Latino Fiction, edited by Delia Poey and Virgil Suarez. New York, HarperPerennial, 1992.
  • Introduction, Cool Salsa: Bilingual Poems on Growing up Latino in the United States, edited by Lori M. Carlson. New York, Holt, 1994.
  • Introduction, The Cuban American Family Album by Dorothy and Thomas Hoobler. New York, Oxford University Press, 1996.
  • Contributor, Best of Pushcart Press III. Pushcart, 1978.
  • Contributor, You're On!: Seven Plans in English and Spanish, edited by Lori M. Carlson. New York, Morrow Junior Books, 1999.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f Brennan, Elizabeth A.; Clarage, Elizabeth C., Who's who of Pulitzer Prize winners, Greenwood Publishing Group, 1999. Cf. p.245
  2. ^ Lori Marie Carlson: writer's website
  3. ^ Candelaria, Cordelia; Garcia, Peter J.; Aldama, Arturo J., Encyclopedia of Latino popular culture, Greenwood Publishing Group, 2004. Cf. pp.343-345
  4. ^ a b c d Cf. Hijuelos, Oscar, Thoughts Without Cigarettes: A Memoir (2011)
  5. ^ N.B. His father, Pascual, was originally from a farm near Jiguaní, Cuba. Cf. Hijuelos (2011)
  6. ^ a b c d e f g "Oscar Hijuelos, Cuban-American Writer Who Won Pulitzer, Dies at 62". NY Times. Retrieved October 13, 2013. 
  7. ^ a b Carlson, Lori M.; and Hijuelos, Oscar, Red Hot Salsa : Bilingual Poems on Being Young and Latino in the United States, Macmillan, 2005. ISBN 0-8050-7616-6. Cf. Introduction, p.xvi. "Once, while in the fourth grade at Corpus Christi School, I received a Valentine's card that said 'I think you're cute'. ..."
  8. ^ Eder, Richard, "This Cuban-American boy’s life", The Boston Globe, Sunday, June 12, 2011. Review of Thoughts Without Cigarettes.
  9. ^ a b c Hispanic Heritage Awards: HHA Honorees: 2000: Oscar Hijuelos (accessed October 14, 2013)
  10. ^ a b c d e BBC News: Cuban-American writer Oscar Hijuelos dies at 62 (accessed October 14, 2013)
  11. ^ New York Times: Books of The Times; Cuban Immigrants in the 50's of Desi and Lucy (accessed October 14, 2013)
  12. ^ "Oscar Hijuelos, Professor of the Practice", Duke University, English Department faculty
  13. ^ "Hispanic Heritage Awards for Literature". Hispanic Heritage Foundation. Retrieved January 11, 2011. 
  14. ^ CTV News: Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Oscar Hijuelos dies at age 62

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]