Video from Live Talks Los Angeles with Oscar Hijuelos in conversation with NPR's Mandalit del Barco discussing his memoir, Thoughts Without Cigarettes. Event was held Thursday, June 7, 2012 at Track 16 at Bergamot Station.
An Evening with Oscar Hijuelos in conversation with Mandalit Del Barco discussing his memoir, Thoughts Without Cigarettes.
Oscar Hijuelos is the international bestselling author of eight novels, including The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love, for which he became the first Latino to win the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. He has also received the Rome Prize and prestigious grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation. He lives in New York City.
In his memoir, Thoughts Without Cigarettes, Hijuelos turns his pen to the real people and places that have influenced his life and, in turn, his literature. He has enchanted readers with vibrant characters who hunger for success, love, and self-acceptance. In his first work of nonfiction, Hijuelos writes from the heart about the people and places that inspired his international bestselling novels.
Born in Manhattan’s Morningside Heights to Cuban immigrants in 1951, Hijuelos introduces readers to the colorful circumstances of his upbringing. The son of a Cuban hotel worker and exuberant poetry- writing mother, his story, played out against the backdrop of an often prejudiced working-class neighborhood, takes on an even richer dimension when his relationship to his family and culture changes forever. During a sojourn in pre-Castro Cuba with his mother, he catches a disease that sends him into a Dickensian home for terminally ill children. The yearlong stay estranges him from the very language and people he had so loved.With a cast of characters whose stories are both funny and tragic, Thoughts Without Cigarettes follows Hijuelos’s subsequent quest for his true identity into adulthood, through college and beyond-a mystery whose resolution he eventually discovers hidden away in the trappings of his fiction, and which finds its most glorious expression in his best-known book, The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love. Illuminating the most dazzling scenes from his novels, Thoughts Without Cigarettes reveals the true stories and indelible memories that shaped a literary genius.
Hijuelos has long been associated with the music of his Hispanic heritage, thanks to his 1989 novel The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love. The story, about two brothers who try to make it big as mambo musicians in 1950s America, heavily examines what it means to reconcile the worlds of both Cuba and America.
Among the revelations found in the book: He didn’t always love the Latin musical genres that later helped make him famous. Our partner, Bio.com recently did an interview with Hijuelos about his experiences with music, and how it inspires him in his daily life.
BIO: Music plays a large role in both your personal life as well as your writing. How did you become interested in music?
Oscar: I started playing guitar at about the age of 12, loved fiddling with other instruments, from violin (badly) to piano (by ear) and have always loved both classical music and jazz, as well as certain styles of rock ‘n’ roll. Of course, I grew up hearing Latin music but, to be honest, aside from my personal circumstances, like most kids I wanted to rebel against what I considered to be such old fashioned fare.
Read the full interview here.
Mandalit del Barco is a general assignment and Arts correspondent for NPR News, where she covers everything from street gangs to Hollywood, police, marijuana, immigration, natural disasters, and urban street culture. Her stories can be heard on All Things Considered, Morning Edition, Weekend Edition, alt.latino and npr.org.