Oscar Hijuelos, one of two children of Pascual Hijuelos, a hotel employee, and Magdalena Torrens Hijuelos, a homemaker, was born in New York City on August 24, 1951. Both his parents had immigrated to the United States in the 1940’s from Cuba’s Oriente Province. Hijuelos grew up in Manhattan and attended a Catholic elementary school and a public high school. Throughout his adolescence, he played in bands with other Latino, mostly Puerto Rican, musicians. Hijuelos received both his B.A., in Asian history in 1975, and his M.A., in English in 1976, from City College of the City University of New York.
After graduation, he supported himself with odd jobs. An amateur archaeologist, he traveled widely and lived in Italy for a few years. In 1985, Hijuelos was awarded both a creative writing fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Rome Fellowship of the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters. His first book, the largely autobiographical Our House in the Last World (1983), which he began writing while working for an advertising agency, earned him $6,400. His second, The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love (1989), won him fame, fortune, and a Pulitzer Prize in fiction, the first given to a Latino author. The popular novel was also nominated for the National Book Award and for the annual fiction prize of the National Book Critics Circle. Hijuelos was awarded a Guggenheim grant in 1990 and was honored at the...
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