Pulitzer Prize Winning Author of THE MAMBO KINGS PLAY SONGS OF LOVE at 62
Oscar Hijuelos, the Cuban-American novelist died at 62 on Saturday, while playing tennis in New York City, according to his agent, Jennifer Lyons.
Hijuelos was the internationally bestselling author of eight novels, including The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love, for which he became the first Latino to win the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. He has also received the Rome Prize and prestigious grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation.
Born in Manhattan in 1951, he divided his time between New York and North Carolina, where he taught at Duke University.
His books included Our House in the Last World (1983), The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love (1989), The Fourteen Sisters of Emilio Montez O'Brien (1993), Mr. Ives' Christmas (1995), Empress of the Splendid Season (1999), A Simple Habana Melody (from when the world was good) (2002), Dark Dude (2008), Beautiful Maria of my Soul (2010) and Thoughts Without Cigarettes: A Memoir (2011).
Aside from winning the Pulitzer Prize, he was also well known as an advocate for Cuban writers, noting in an Penguin Group interview that "Invisible is not the right word-and not my choice. Under-represented, under-appreciated, and under-celebrated in the hallowed halls of high lit would be more appropriate phrases in describing our circumstances. Though Latino writing has experienced peaks, notably in the 1990s, it seems that the predominantly non-Hispanic hierarchy presiding over literary reviewing and prize-giving has been almost ignoring Latino writing in recent years. (For example, just look at the roster of inductees into the American Institute of Arts and Letters: I think the last Latino literature inductee into its ranks was Nicholas Mohr-back in the 1970s!) As for the reasons why, I can only speculate."
In addition to the Pulitzer, 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, Hijuelos received the Hispanic Heritage Award for Literature.