Miamians like to think they have the market on second-generation Cuban experience pretty much monopolized. Too bad Oscar Hijuelos didnt grow up in Little Havana, Hialeah, or even Kendall. No, the Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist was raised in East Harlem. But his true story of growing up in America and trying to come to terms with his Latino roots while assimilating American culture is the common theme for Cuban-Americans, and all immigrants for that matter. A childhood illness, which forced him to spend a year in a hospital where he forgot Spanish, and his appearance he was nicknamed el Alemán (the German) because he was blond-haired and fair-skinned conspired to make Hijueloss Hispanic upbringing anything but ordinary. He found his true identity only when he began writing fiction the ultimate expression of which emerged in his most famous novel, The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love (yeah, the book that would later become the movie The Mambo Kings). After a career spent penning fiction, Hijuelos turned his writers wit and self-deprecating humor to nonfiction pursuits in his memoir, Thoughts Without Cigarettes. Hijuelos didnt grow up in Miami and has never lived here, but when he goes on tour to talk about his Cuban-American life, he damn well knows he better come to South Florida. Hear him speak about his memoir at Books & Books on Thursday.
Thu., June 23, 8 p.m., 2011