Tag Archives: Oscar Hijuelos

In the News: New releases, remembering Oscar Hijuelos and more

Here’s the latest new releases and news in Latino literature for the month of November:

FamilyTroubleAlready out: In her book Family Trouble, Joy Castro explores what happens to writers when they reveal their family secrets. Judith Ortiz Cofer and Rigoberto González are included in the book.

• In the novel The Accidental Native by J.L. Torres, a man comes to Puerto Rico to bury his parents, only to discover he was adopted.

Almost White• Actor/writer/director/producer Rick Najera, whose credits include the screenplay for Nothing Like the Holidays, explores his time in the entertainment industry in Almost White: Forced Confessions of a Latino in Hollywood. He talked about the book to NPR. In another memoir, Illinois Rep. Luis Gutiérrez talks about his life in Still Dreaming: My Journey from the Barrio to Capitol Hill.

Don'tSayAWordDon’t Say a Word, Mama/No Digas Nada, Mama is the latest children’s book from Joe Hayes. The story focuses on two sisters and the garden they make with their mother.

Nov. 5: Chris Pérez remembers his wife in the memoir To Selena, with Love (Commemorative Edition).

Nov. 12: In The Living by Matt de la Peña, an 18-year-old cruise ship worker finds himself fighting for his life when a huge earthquake and tsunami hits the Pacific Ocean.

Mi_Familia_CalacaNov. 19: In the children’s book Mi Familia Calaca/My Skeleton Family by Cynthia Weil and illustrated by Jesus Canseco Zárate, the artwork of Oaxaca, Mexico is used to illustrate the diversity of family structures. Richard Blanco describes the process of writing the poem for President Obama’s inauguration in the book For All of Us, One Today: An Inaugural Poet’s Journey.

• Dec. 3 – Spaniard Antonio Muñoz Molina depicts life during the Spanish Civil War in the novel In the Night of Time.

OscarHijuelosRemembering Oscar Hijuelos: Oscar Hijuelos, the first Latino to win the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for his 1989 book The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love, died at age 62 last month. Here is his obituary from The New York Times. His friend Gustavo Perez Firmat remembered him in this NPR interview.

Other features:

Daniel AlarconDaniel Alarcón, left, talked about his new book, At Night We Walk in Circles, to Latino USA, Guernica and Vogue magazines, the LA Review of Books and NPR.

Sarah Cortez discussed her life as a poet and a police officer to Voice of America.

Junot Díaz and illustrator Jaime Hernandez spoke to The Washington Post and Complex.com about the making of the deluxe edition of This is How You Lose Her. Huffington Post featured several of the images.

PatriciaEngel-Photo1Patricia Engel, right, author of It’s Not Love, It’s Just Paris, was profiled by SouthFlorida.com.

Reyna Grande talked about her memoir The Distance Between Us in an interview with KPBS.

• NBC Latino featured Tim Z. Hernandez, author of Mañana Means Heaven, and Nicolás Kanellos, the founder of Arté Publico Press.

• Poet Charlie Vázquez announced the introduction of Editorial Trance, which will publish ebooks by Latino writers.

• This is awesome: The Shortlist website compiled “30 Pieces of Wisdom from Gabriel García Márquez Novels.”

• Great story: Public Radio International traveled to Peru and discovered its writers are spreading their stories through Lucha Libro writing.

• Read the writings of 16 emerging Cuban writers compiled by Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo. (Hat tip to The Millions website.)

• Here is coverage from the Latino Information Network at Rutgers of the Las Comadres and Compadres Writers Conference writers’ workshop that took place in October in Brooklyn. The School Library Journal also reported on the event.

• The Scholastic Book Box Daily Blog featured a great profile on Pura Belpré, the New York Public Library’s first Latina librarian and the woman whose name appears on the American Library Association awards for young readers’ literature aimed at Hispanics. The Pura Belpré Awards will be announced in January.

Latinas for Latino Lit has a great package for families with young children — reading kits featuring a book (on Belpré, Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta and Celia Cruz), along with a booklet and pencils.

• In an article for The Texas Observer, San Antonio writer Gregg Barrios discussed the lack of Latino writers at the Texas Book Festival that took place last month. Officials from the organization responded by saying they were late with the invites and some authors declined to attend.

• Seven books that were banned by the Tucson school district — including Occupied America by Rudolfo K. Acuña, can now be read by students in the classroom, reports the Huffington Post.

• Publishing Perspectives took a look at the children’s book market in Brazil.

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Filed under 2013 Books, Children's Books, Fiction, News, Non-Fiction, Young Adult Books

Classic book review: Oscar Hijuelos’ “The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love”

MamboKingsPlaySongsofLoveOn a Saturday night in East Harlem or the Bronx, N.Y., Cesar and Nestor Castillo would perform songs from their homeland of Cuba. Clubgoers would mingle as Cesar sang and played the drums and Nestor performed the trumpet, and life’s troubles would disappear as they danced into the night.

Then the sun would rise and reality would set in.

The lives of the Castillo brothers are depicted in The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love (HarperPerennial) by Oscar Hijuelos. Released in 1989, the book won critical acclaim and Hijuelos become the first Latino to win the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. And, perhaps more significantly in the realm of pop culture, it became a 1992 movie that made Antonio Banderas a star in the United States.

The brothers immigrated from Cuba to New York in the 1950s. Working by day, they play by night, getting gigs around the East Coast, releasing albums and landing a spot on I Love Lucy.

Hijuelos’ writing comes alive when he describes the brothers’ performances.

“He’d get up on the stage, dancing before the microphone while his musicians took the music forward. The glory of being on a stage with his brother Nestor, playing for crowds of café-society people who jumped, bounced, and wriggled across the dance floor. While Nestor soloed, Cesar’s heavy eyelids fluttered like butterfly wings lilting on a rose; for drum solos his hips hook, his arms whipped into the air: he’d take backwards dance steps, gripping his belt with one hand a crease of trouser with the other, hiking them up, as if to accentuate the valiant masculinity therein; outline of the big prick through white silk pantalones. Piano taking a ninth chord voicing behind a solo, he’d stare up into the pink and red spotlights, giving the audience a horse’s grin. Woman in a strapless dress dancing a slow, grinding rumba, staring at Cesar Castillo. Old woman with her hair coiffed upward into a heavenly spiral, starting at Cesar. Teenage girl, Miss Roosevelt High School Class of 1950, thin-legged and thinking about the mystery of boys and love, staring at Cesar Castillo. Old ladies’ skin heating up, hips moving like young girls’ hips, eyes, wide open with admiration and delight.”

Cesar is the definition of machismo. He almost seems defined by his “big thing” in the book’s frequent depictions of his sexual conquests. He devours sex as much as food and alcohol.

Nestor has a stable family life, but he’s more melancholy and introverted.

“Nestor tried, heaven helped him … After six years in the United States, he was still living with a growing dread of things. It wasn’t that he feared one thing in particular; he just had the sense that things weren’t going to work out, that the sky would fall in and lightning would strike him as he walked down the street, that the earth might open up and swallow him.”

Hijuelos is such a natural and beautiful writer that the book is easy to read, but sometimes it drags on too long. (We get it. Cesar likes to have sex.)

But as the book ends, Cesar realizes how his life has taken a toll on his body and his soul.

“The thing about one’s body coming apart was that, if anything, you felt more.”

And that’s the brilliance of Hijuelos’ writing — he can make you feel like you’re dying or dancing.

OscarHijuelosMore about Oscar Hijuelos: Hijuelos, whose parents immigrated from Cuba to New York, also wrote the books Our House in the Last World, Mr. Ives’ Christmas, Empress of the Splendid Season and Dark Dude. His most recent book is his 2011 memoir, Thoughts Without Cigarettes.

Source: I checked this book out of the library.

This book is part of my series on classic Latino novels. Up next: Manuel Puig’s Kiss of the Spider Woman.

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In the news: August brings new releases from Vásquez, Engel and Marias

It’s August and it’s still hot. Here are some books to help keep your cool:

Sound of Things Falling Aug. 1: In the novel The Sound of Things Falling, Colombian author Juan Gabriel Vásquez explores the effects of the drug war in his native country.

Aug. 6: A Colombian-American college student finds romance in the world’s most romantic city in Patricia Engel’s It’s Not Love It’s Just Paris.

The Infatuations Aug. 13: In Spanish novelist Javier MariasThe Infatuations, a woman is intrigued by a couple she sees at her local café – and then the man is murdered.

Aug. 29: Tim Z. Hernandez imagines the life of Bea Franco, the farmworker who inspired a character in Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, in Mañana Means Heaven.

Events:

• The Latino Comics Expo , featuring Lalo Alcaraz and Mario Hernandez, will take place Aug. 17-18 in Long Beach, Calif.

Writing conferences:

Reyna Grande will be the keynote speaker at the Comadres and Compadres Writers Conference Oct. 5 at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn, N.Y. The event will include panelists and one-on-one sessions with agents and editors.

Writing contests:

• Sept. 1 is the deadline for Lee & Low Books’ New Voices Award, given to an unpublished children’s book written by a writer of color.

Other features:

LoteriaMario Alberto Zambrano talked about his novel, Lotería, to NPR.

Alfredo Corchado discussed his book Midnight in Mexico: A Reporter’s Journey Through a Country’s Descent into Darkness, to NPR’s Fresh Air and PBS NewsHour.

Nearer HomeJoy Castro talked about her newest book, Nearer Home, to “Words on a Wire.”

• The life of The Alchemist author Paulo Coehlo is being made into a movie, according to the Huffington Post.

Roberto Bolaño’s 2666 is now available on e-readers, according to the Los Angeles Times. Francisco Goldman read Bolaño’s 2008 short story, “Clara,” on The New Yorker magazine’s fiction podcast.

Junot Díaz made annotations on portions of his award-winning book The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao for the Poetry Genius website, according to MediaBistro.

• The federal courts have ordered the Tucson, Ariz., school district to make Mexican-American Studies available in its classrooms, reports NPR.

• Each major publishing house now has a Latino author on its roster, reports Latinzine.

• Graphic novels are becoming more popular in Colombia thanks to a lift in tax restrictions, according to Publishing Perspectives. One of the titles is a biography of Gabriel Gárcia Márquez.

Also this month:

• Nobel Prize winner Jacinto Benavente y Martinez was born Aug. 12. The Hispanic Reader turns two years old on Aug. 16.  Jorge Luis Borges, Paulo Coelho and Oscar Hijuelos celebrate birthdays on Aug. 24.

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Happy Independence Day, United States of America!

On July 4, 1776, the United States of America declared themselves free from Great Britain. Thanks to its diverse population, the United States is one of the world’s great superpowers. And, by 2050, some scholars project it will boast the largest Spanish-speaking population in the world. Here’s a look, by region, at some of America’s great Latino writers.

LuisValdezCalifornia: Luiz Valdez, right, the father of Latino theater and playwright of “Zoot Suit,” began presenting plays during the Delano farmworkers strike. The plight of farmworkers in California have been the subject of books by Helena María Viramontes and Pam Muñoz Ryan. Other Californians include Gustavo Arellano, Margarita Engle, Alex Espinoza, Reyna Grande, Gilbert Hernandez, Lorraine López, Luis J. Rodriguez, Michele Serros, Gary Soto, Héctor Tobar and Victor Villaseñor.

Rudulfo AnayaNew Mexico: Native son Rudolfo Anaya, left, considered the father of Chicano literature, has set his novels, including his beloved Bless Me Ultima and Sonny Baca mysteries, in this state. The state also served as the setting for novels by Ana Castillo, Denise Chávez and Alisa Valdes.

esmeralda_santiago_163x179_1Puerto Rico: The Caribbean island joined the United States in 1898. Esmeralda Santiago, right, wrote about her personal history in When I Was Puerto Rican and the island’s history in the novel Conquistadora. Other authors of Puerto Rican heritage include Lyn DiIorio, Sarah McCoy, Piri Thomas, Justin Torres and Willliam Carlos Williams.

Rolando HinojosaTexas: Life on the border has served as fodder for books by Rolando Hinojosa,  left, of the Rio Grande Valley, and Sergio Troncoso of El Paso. Sandra Cisneros, originally from Chicago, set her books Woman Hollering Creek and Have You Seen Marie? in this state. Other Tejanos include Dagoberto Gilb, Manuel Gonzales, Diana López and Gwendolyn Zepeda.

JunotDiazThe country’s most prestigious literary award, the Pulitzer Prize, has been given to Cuban-American Oscar Hijuelos and Dominican-American Junot Díaz, right, in the fiction category; Cuban-American Nilo Cruz and Quiara Alegría Hudes, who is of Puerto Rican descent, in drama; and numerous journalists. Eduardo Lalo won the 2013 International Rómulo Gallegos Prize for Fiction, becoming the first American to win one of Latin America’s most prestigious literary awards. The Pura Belpré Award, given by the American Library Association, honors books written for young readers.

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Happy Independence Day, Cuba!

Cuba declared its independence from Spain on May 20, 1902. The Caribbean country has had a turbulent history – making it a rich topic for its writers.

nicolasguillenNicolás Guillén (1902-1989), once the national poet of Cuba, is known for his poems about social justice that he wrote in the 1920s and 1930s. The country’s winners of the  Miguel de Cervantes Prize, given to Spanish-language writers, are playwright Alejo Carpentier, poet Dulce María Loynaz and novelist Guillermo Cabrera Infante.

OscarHijuelosOscar Hijuelos, who was born in New York City to Cuban parents, became the first Latino to win the Pulitzer Prize for fiction with his 1989 book The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Loveabout two Cuban brothers who pursue their musical dreams in New York City. Hijuelos also wrote the novels Our House in the Last World and Mr. Ives’ Christmas and the memoir Thoughts Without Cigarettes.

CristinaGarcia Two writers who were born in Havana and immigrated to the United States have used Cuba as a setting for their novels. Cristina García, left, showed one family’s life in Dreaming in Cuban and describes the effects of dictator Fidel Castro’s regime in the just released  King of Cuba. The Castro government plays a key role in the characters’ lives of Elizabeth Huergo’s The Death of Fidel Pérez.

Margarita_Engle.2California-raised children’s writer Margarita Engle draws on Cuba’s history for her free verse books, including The Lightning Dreamer, Cuba’s Greatest Abolitionist, about Gertrudis Gómez de Avellaneda; The Surrender Tree, about a nurse who helps those while war rages in Cuba in 1896; and The Poet Slave of Cuba: A Biography of Juan Francisco Manzano

Carlos EireCarlos Eire was airlifted from Havana during Operation Pedro Pan, a CIA operation in which thousands of Cuban children were taken to the United States in the early 1960s – an experience he wrote about in Waiting for Snow in Havana: Confessions of a Cuban Boy. His follow-up book was Learning to Die in Miami: Confessions of a Refugee Boy.

Other writers with Cuban roots include Meg Medina, Caridad Piñeiro and Alisa Valdes.

 

 

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Happy birthday, Oscar Hijuelos!

 

(Update: Oscar Hijuelos passed away in October 2013. Here is his obituary from The New York Times.)

Oscar Hijuelos was born August 24, 1951 in New York City. His 1989 book The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love became the first novel by a Latino author to win the prestigious Pulitzer Prize.

Hijuelos was raised by his Cuban parents in New York City – a childhood reflected in his first novel, 1983’s Our House in the Last World.

His next novel was Mambo Kings. The book, which depicts the lives of two Cuban brothers who pursue their musical dreams in New York City, was made into a 1996 movie staring Antonio Banderas.

Mr. Ives’ Christmas, published in 1996, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. Here’s a great review of the book from NPR’s Ray Suarez. He also wrote 2000’s Empress of the Splendid Season and 2008’s Dark Dude. His most recent book is his 2011 memoir, Thoughts Without Cigarettes.

It’s a great day for Latino writers: Jorge Luis Borges and Paulo Coelho also celebrate birthdays today.

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In the News: New books and short stories, and plenty of awards

Hello, summer! Here are some June book releases to keep you entertained:

Already in bookstores: Nobel Prize winner Mario Vargas Llosa’s The Dream of the Celt depicts the life of Irish human rights activist Richard Casement.  La Roja: How Soccer Conquered Spain and How Spanish Soccer Conquered the World by Jimmy Burns covers the world’s most popular sport. Daniel Orozco’s critically acclaimed book of short stories, Orientation, is now in paperback.

June 14: The Neruda Case by Roberto Ampuero features a private eye solving a case for poet Pablo Neruda during his final days. Carolina DeRobertis, author of Perla, talked to Publishers Weekly about translating the book.

June 26: Spanish author Felix J. Palma’s The Map of Time explores time travel in Victorian London.

Awards:

Congratulations to the winners of Latino Literacy Now’s International Latino Book Awards, which were announced last week. Honorees included some of The Hispanic Reader’s favorites – such as Becoming Dr. Q: My Journey from Migrant Farm Worker to Brain Surgeon by Dr. Alfredo Quiñones-Hinojosa and Crossing Borders: Personal Essays by Sergio Troncoso, which won first place and second place, respectively, in the Best Biography category; Outside the Bones by Lyn Di Iorio and Say Her Name by Francisco Goldman, which earned honorable mentions in the Best Popular Fiction – English category; and The Time in Between by Maria Dueñas which received first place for Best Novel – Historical.

• The Skipping Stones 2012 Honor Awards – given to books with multicultural themes – honored Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match by Monica Brown.

When We Were Outlaws: A Memoir of Love & Revolution by Jeanne Córdova and Gay Latino Studies: A Critical Reader, edited by Michael Hames-García and Ernesto Javier Martínez, won prizes at the 24th Annual Lambda Literary Awards, which honors lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgendered literature.

New short stories and other works:

Junot Díaz talks about the science fiction short story, “Monstro,” he wrote for The New Yorker. He also remembered science fiction writer Ray Bradbury, who passed away earlier this month, in an article for the magazine.

Luis Alberto Urrea will have a short story included in Esquire’s ebook aimed at men, You and Me and the Devil Makes Three, out June 12.

Carlos Andrés Gómez put up a new poem, How to Fight, in response to recent shootings.

Author profiles:

NBC Latino profiled Julia Alvarez and her new book, A Wedding in Haiti.

Pulitzer Prize winner Oscar Hijuelos talked about his memoir, Thoughts Without Cigarettes, to The Morning News.

Carmen Gimenez Smith, New Mexico State University assistant professor of English and editor of the literary magazine Puerto del Sol, was featured in the Las Cruces Sun-News about being NPR’s NewsPoet.

Body art by Mia Roman. Photographed by Johnny Ramos.

Other news:

La Casa Azul bookstore, which specializes in Latino literature, opened in June in East Harlem by Aurora Anaya-Cerda (right), and was featured in The New York Times.

Aztec Muse publisher Tony Diaz earned the Open Book Award from the American Society of Journalists and Authors for his Librotraficante work.

• Here’s an interesting story, published in the The Daily Beast/Newsweek, about how Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude brought down a banana empire.
Note: This post was updated to correct that Sergio Troncoso won second place in the International Latino Book Awards and to add the Garcia Marquez link.

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Filed under 2012 Books, Awards, Children's Books, Fiction, News, Poetry