Friday, April 25, 2014

Oscar Hijuelos Childhood Home Honored with Memorial Plaque

Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist
Oscar Hijuelos.
Oscar Jerome Hijuelos (1951-2013), the son of Cuban immigrants who would later become a novelist and the first Latino to win the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for his masterpiece The Mambo Kings Sing Songs of Love, was honored with a memorial plaque at his childhood home in New York by the city's Historic Landmarks Preservation Center.

Entrance of 419 West 118th
Street in Manhattan.
The Hijuelos family lived
in a first floor apartment
to the left of the front door.
Photo by Claudio Weisz.
The building, located at 419 West 118th Street, in the shadow of Columbia University in the Morningside Heights neighborhood of Manhattan, was fitted with a memorial plaque honoring the writer, who lived in a first floor apartment with his family (father Pascual Hijuelos, mother Magdalena Torrens de Hijuelos and brother José Hijuelos) from 1951 to 1971 (his mother continued living in the same apartment until she passed away at the age of 94).

Memorial plaque in front of Oscar
Hijuelos' childhood home.
Photo by Claudio Weisz.
His second novel, The Mambo Kings Sing Songs of Love, was released in 1989. After winning the Pulitzer Prize in 1990, it was adapted into a movie in 1992, and a musical in 2005. After Hijuelos, other Latinos who have received the Pulitzer (in various categories) include Nilo Cruz, Junot Díaz, Quiara Alegría Hudes, Rubén Vives and Sonia Nazario.

Other works by Hijuelos include Our House in the Last World, 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), Dark DudeBeautiful Maria of My Soul, and Thoughts Without Cigarettes: A Memoir. In addition to writing, he taught at Hofstra University and was affiliated with Duke University.

Hijuelos on the roof of
419 West 118th Street.
The Hispanic Organization of Latin Actors (HOLA) honored Hijuelos in 2001 with the HOLA Raúl Juliá Founders Award, presented to him by Juliá widow, Merel Poloway Juliá. In addition to the Pulitzer and the HOLA, he received an Ingram Merrill Foundation Award in 1983, the Rome Prize (presented by the American Academy of Rome) in 1985 and the Hispanic Heritage Award for Literature in 2000.

Hijuelos passed away in 2013 of a heart attack after playing a game of tennis (one of his favorite hobbies). He left behind his widow, writer and editor Lori Marie Carlson. 

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