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Born on August 24, 1951, in New York, New York, Oscar Hijuelos grew up in New York as the son of Cuban immigrants. As a result, Hijuelos often explores what it means to be Hispanic in America in his work. His first novel, Our House in the Last World (1983), followed the life of a Cuban family in the United States during the 1940s. While Hijuelos received much critical praise for this work, it was his second novel—The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love—that catapulted him onto the best-sellers list, and earned him international acclaim.
The novel, published in 1989, takes readers into the lives of two Cuban brothers. Set in the 1950s, the story follows the brothers' journey from Havana to New York where they start an orchestra. Described as lyrical and exhilarating by critics, the novel won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1990, making Hijuelos the first Hispanic writer to receive this honor. The novel was later turned into a film starring Armand Assante and Antonio Banderas. In 2005, Hijuelos adapted the novel for the stage. The musical opened at the Shubert Theater in New York in July of that year.
In addition to his popular works of fiction, including Empress of the Slplendid Season (2000) and Dark Dude (2008), Hijuelos published a memoir, Thoughts Without Cigarettes, in 2011. In what was the first non-fiction work for the author, Hijuelos revealed his struggle to merge his Cuban and American identities.
One of the leading Cuban-American writers working today, Hijuelos continues to depict the Hispanic experience in his work. Known and admired around the world, Hijuelos' works have been translated into 25 languages.
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