Oscar Hijuelos, the 2000 Hispanic Heritage Awards Honoree for Literature, was the first American-born Hispanic to win the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. His novels explore the complex experience of Hispanic immigrants and have been translated in to 25 languages – proving that his working class ethic and practicality have reached the hearts and minds of all who yearn to live their dreams.
Oscar believes that education, no matter where it takes place, awakens one’s awareness of different life paths. He started his education at Bronx Community College, then went on to earn bachelors and masters degrees from the City College of New York. While working in an advertising agency, he began writing short stories and domestic dramas. His first novel, Our House in the Last World, was published in 1985 and garnered the American Academy of Arts and Letters’ Rome Prize. His 1990 Pulitzer-winning work, The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love, became the basis for the 1992 motion picture The Mambo Kings. In 2006, he won the Outstanding Alumni Award from the American Association of Community Colleges, nominated by Bronx Community College.
Oscar has earned many honors, including grants from the Ingram-Merrill Foundation and the Guggenheim Foundation, fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the New York Foundation for the Arts, and award nominations from the National Book Critics and the National Book Foundation. In 2003, the University of California, Santa Barbara presented him with the inaugural Luis Leal Award for Distinction in Chicano/Latino Literature. Also a music aficionado, Oscar recorded a song for Stranger Than Fiction, a CD project where authors performed to raise funds for charities.
These days, Oscar has his hands in a number of literary and musical projects, including the stage musical version of The Mambo Kings, produced in San Francisco, and the editing of Burnt Sugar Caña Quemada: Contemporary Cuban Poetry in English and Spanish with his wife, author Lori Marie Carlson. His last novel, A Simple Habana Melody: From When the World Was Good was loosely based on the life of Moses Simons, the famed composer of “El Manicero” (“The Peanut Vendor”) who spent time in a Nazi concentration camp. The critically-acclaimed work moved critics and readers with its universal themes of identity, dignity and dreams.