Pulitzer-winning author Oscar Hijuelos died on Saturday in Manhattan at age 62. According to his wife, writer and editor Lori Marie Carlson, the Cuban-American writer collapsed on a tennis court and never regained consciousness.
Hijuelos won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1990 for his book The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love. He was the first Latino to be awarded what is perhaps the most distinguished prize in the literary world.
Hijuelos was born in New York City in 1951 to Cuban immigrant parents. He was said to have been more American-Cuban than Cuban-American. He often wrote about the immigrant experience.
The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love centers around two brothers – Cesar and Nestor Castillo – who immigrated to the US from Cuba in 1949. The two musicians settled in New York City, and through their story, Hijuelos offered readers a rich glimpse of Cuban-American life in the 1950s.
The novel was adapted to film in 1992 and to a musical stage play in 2005.
Hijuelos graduated from the City University of New York in 1975, and earned his M.A. in creative writing a year later. From 1977 to 1984, he worked in an advertising agency by day and wrote fiction by night.
His first novel, Our House in the Last World, was published in 1983, and told the story of a Cuban-American family living in New York’s Spanish Harlem in the 1940s.
In 1985, Hijuelos won a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship that allowed him to focus full time on researching the 1950s Cuban music that would feature so heavily in The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love.
He went on to write several more novels and, in 1992, published his memoir: Thoughts Without Cigarettes.
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