Sad News: Pulitzer Prize-Winning Author of Bestseller ‘Mambo Kings,’ Oscar Hijuelos, Dies at 62

Oct 14, 2013  •  Post A Comment

"Oscar Hijuelos, 62, a Cuban-American novelist who won a Pulitzer Prize for his 1989 novel "The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love" and whose work often captured the loss and triumphs of the Cuban immigrant experience, has died," reports the Associated Press.

Hijuelos was the first Hispanic to win the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, the story notes.

The article continues: "Hijuelos died of a heart attack in Manhattan on Saturday while playing tennis, according to his agent, Jennifer Lyons. ‘The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love’ became a best seller and earned him international acclaim."

A movie version of "Mambo Kings," starring Armand Assante, Antonio Banderas and Cathy Moriarty, came out in 1992.

According to the AP obituary, "In his 2011 memoir, ‘Thoughts Without Cigarettes,’ Hijuelos writes of how he struggled against being labeled an ‘ethnic’ writer and notes that even today there are few other Latinos whose work, despite the considerable number of talented authors, has been awarded the same recognition.’"

"Mambo Kings" also has a connection to TV. From The New York Times obituary for Hijuelos: "Cesar and Nestor [Castillo] and their band, the Mambo Kings, do achieve a brief period of celebrity, and at one point — the high point, in fact, of the brothers’ fame before it begins to flicker and fade — they appear on the television sitcom ‘I Love Lucy,’ which starred Lucille Ball and her husband, the Cuban bandleader and actor Desi Arnaz.

“ ‘In the biography of a successful artist, the "I Love Lucy" appearance would take on a kind of mythic quality: It would stand as one of those happily ironic moments signifying the hero’s own ascent toward the American dream,’ Michiko Kakutani wrote in her review in The New York Times. ‘But in the case of the Castillo brothers, the “I Love Lucy” show provides no more than a momentary glimpse of success. Although it will be rerun endlessly on late-night television, it will remain just a bit of cherished family folklore, an anonymous (and dead-end) brush with fame.’ "

The AP article notes that Hijuelos’ "other novels include ‘Our House in the Last World,’ ‘Empress of the Splendid Season,’ ‘Dark Dude,’ ‘The Fourteen Sisters of Emilio Montez O’Brien’ and ‘A Simple Habana Melody.’ He … also received the Rome Prize and grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation."

oscar hijuelos.pngOscar Hijuelos

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