Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Oscar Hijuelos

Oscar Hijuelos's books include Our House in the Lost World, The Fourteen Sisters of Emilio Montez O'Brien and The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love.

From a Q & A about his new memoir, Thoughts Without Cigarettes:

In your previous books, you had the freedom of fiction for reinventing episodes from your life. What was it like to write nonfiction, in which you were the protagonist?

Well, first thing, given that memory is so capricious, you can't help wondering if you are getting things right: And while one comes to feel that the "I" being written about is really about yourself, the irony is that time—over the distance of the years—produces a version of events and of yourself so different than who you actually are now, that it seems you are writing about someone else.

You observe that America's Latino/a writers are almost invisible in today's literary scene. Why do you suppose this is so?

Invisible is not the right word—and not my choice. Under-represented, under-appreciated, and under-celebrated in the hallowed halls of high lit would be more appropriate phrases in describing our circumstances. Though Latino writing has experienced peaks, notably in the 1990s, it seems that the predominantly non-Hispanic hierarchy presiding over literary reviewing and prize-giving has been almost ignoring Latino writing in recent years. (For example, just look at the roster of inductees into the American Institute of Arts and Letters: I think the last Latino literature inductee into its ranks was Nicholas Mohr—back in the 1970s!) As for the reasons why, I can only speculate.

Why did the Harlem Renaissance only encompass African American writers, while your memoir illustrates how diverse those blocks north of Columbia (and in east Harlem) truly were?

I think the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s and 1930s was the product of...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue