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Oscar Hijuelos (1951–2013)

Author of The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love

15+ Works 4,386 Members 161 Reviews 6 Favorited

About the Author

Óscar Jerome Hijuelos was born in Manhattan, New York on August 24, 1951 to Cuban immigrant parents. He received a bachelor's degree and a master of fine arts degree from City College. His first novel, Our House in the Last World, was published in 1983 and won the Rome Prize of the American show more Academy of Arts and Letters. His other works include The Fourteen Sisters of Emilio Montez O'Brien, Mr. Ives' Christmas, Empress of the Splendid Season, A Simple Habana Melody (From When the World was Good), Beautiful Maria of My Soul, Another Spaniard in the Works, and Twain and Stanley Enter Paradise. His novel, The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love, won the 1990 Pulitzer Prize for fiction and was made into a 1992 movie starring Armand Assante and Antonio Banderas. He also wrote a young adult novel entitled Dark Dude and a memoir entitled Thoughts Without Cigarettes. In 2000, he received the Hispanic Heritage Award for Literature. He died after collapsing with a heart attack while playing tennis on October 12, 2013 at age 62. (Bowker Author Biography) show less
Image credit: Courtesy of Serpent's Tail Press


Works by Oscar Hijuelos

Associated Works

Cool Salsa (1994) — Introduction; Contributor — 294 copies
Writing New York: A Literary Anthology (1998) — Contributor — 274 copies
Growing Up Latino: Memoirs and Stories (1993) — Contributor — 126 copies
The Norton Anthology of Latino Literature (2010) — Contributor — 57 copies
Voices in First Person: Reflections on Latino Identity (2008) — Contributor — 38 copies
The Good Parts: The Best Erotic Writing in Modern Fiction (2000) — Contributor — 33 copies
You're On!: Seven Plays in English and Spanish (1999) — Contributor — 17 copies
The Mambo Kings [1992 film] (1992) — Original book — 15 copies
The Cuban American Family Album (1996) — Introduction, some editions — 14 copies
Amerika, Amerika bloemlezing — Contributor — 8 copies


Common Knowledge



If you want to read 400 meandering pages about the huge penis of a repugnant, misogynist rapist, this is the book for you. If you are sane, skip it.
myshkin77 | 30 other reviews | Aug 10, 2023 |
dgmathis | 30 other reviews | Mar 15, 2023 |
In 1949, brothers Cesar and Nestor Castillo leave Havana, Cuba and make their home in New York. They are musicians who experience a brief brush with fame with a song written by Nestor to an idealized love interest. They catch the attention of fellow Cuban Desi Arnaz and make a cameo appearance on the I Love Lucy show. It covers the brothers’ childhood in Cuba and Cesar’s life into his sixties.

The first half of the book tells a story of contrasting personalities – Cesar is the flamboyant lead singer who enjoys the limelight and Nestor is more comfortable in a supporting role. Cesar chases women relentlessly while Nestor is fixated on one early relationship to the detriment of his wife and children. The second half focuses on Cesar, sitting in a run-down hotel room in 1980, drinking whiskey, listening to his group’s old recordings, and reflecting back on his life. The introduction and conclusion are written from the viewpoint of Nestor’s son, Eugenio, providing the next generation’s perspective.

I have mixed feelings about this book. On the positive side, the writing is expressive and convincingly evokes the period of the 1940s and 1950s. The musical references provide a wealth of material to investigate further, which I always appreciate. On the negative side, the plot is almost exclusively focused on drinking and sex. The main character is drinking himself to death, and the many sex scenes are extremely graphic. There is little character development. It does not leave much room for anything beyond commenting on a shallow life. It was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1990.
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Castlelass | 30 other reviews | Nov 5, 2022 |
looking at reviews of this book now, i'm surprised by how many people are saying that it's "too slow for today's teens" or "not developed enough for today's teens" or "not exciting enough for today's teens." but are these people teens? no. they are not.

let the teens decide.

of course, i had my own problems with this book, namely that it was supposed to be set in the 60's or 70's and it really really didn't feel like it. the language and some of the plot screamed "present day." add that to the fact that characters seem to go against what you think they would do if they were real people, with startling regularity, and it just wasn't doing it for me.… (more)
J.Flux | 18 other reviews | Aug 13, 2022 |



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Fred Marcellino Cover artist
Armando Duran Narrator


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½ 3.6

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