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Oscar Hijuelos: 1951—: Novelist Biography

Worked In Advertising Firm, Novel Featured Desi Arnaz As Character

Oscar Hijuelos: 1951—: Novelist.

The novel of immigrant life is a durable and extremely significant tradition in American literature, and Cuban-American writer Oscar Hijuelos has emerged as one of its top recent practitioners. His 1989 novel The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love was both a prizewinner and a bestseller; in that work and in several other substantial novels Hijuelos has explored the worlds of Cuban-born and Cuban-descended characters who live in the major cities of the U.S. eastern seaboard. "Oscar Hijuelos," noted the National Review, "forces the Hispanic immigrant experience close to the center of our cultural consciousness, where it very much deserves to be."

Born in New York on August 24, 1951, Hijuelos was the son of a Cuban-born hotel worker. In the years before the takeover by Communist strongman Fidel Castro the family occasionally returned to Cuba. On one of those trips Hijuelos became seriously ill and had to spend several months in a Connecticut children's hopsital upon his return. Hijuelos was a product of New York's public education system through the Master's degree level, graduating from the City University of New York in 1975 and gaining his M.A. in creative writing a year later. Among his early influences as a writer were the novelist Henry Roth, who had chronicled the experiences of Jewish immigrants, and the minimalist short-story craftsman Donald Barthelme.

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