I was stunned yesterday to hear of the passing of Oscar Hijuelos. I knew him through Dark Dude.
In Wisconsin, Rico could blend in. His light hair and lighter skin wouldn’t make him the “dark dude” or the punching bag for the whole neighborhood. The Midwest is the land of milk and honey, but for Rico Fuentes, it’s really a last resort. Trading Harlem for Wisconsin, though, means giving up on a big part of his identity. And when Rico no longer has to prove that he’s Latino, he almost stops being one. Except he can never have an ordinary white kid’s life, because there are some things that can’t be left behind, that can’t be cut loose or forgotten. These are the things that will be with you forever…. These are the things that will follow you a thousand miles away. (Amazon.)Visit their page to read or listen to an exerpt.)
Hijuelos was an internationally know Pulizter Prize winning Cuban American author. He was the first Latino to win the award for his 1989 novel The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love. Needless to say, his book opened doors.
Unlike that of many well-known Latin writers, his work was rarely outwardly political, focusing instead on the conundrums of assimilation. And rather than employing a syncopated musicality or fantastical flights of magic realism, Mr. Hijuelos wrote fluid prose, sonorous but more earthy than poetic, with a forthright American cadence. (The New York Times)
While obituaries on CNN, BBC, Chicago Post….. my favorite is on PBS.