NEW YORK — Oscar Hijuelos, a Cuban-American novelist who won a Pulitzer Prize for his 1989 novel “The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love” and whose work often captured the loss and triumphs of the Cuban immigrant experience, has died. He was 62.
Hijuelos died of a heart attack in Manhattan on Saturday while playing tennis, according to his agent.
“The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love” became a best seller and earned him international acclaim. He won the Pulitzer for fiction in 1990, making him the first Hispanic writer to receive that honor.
The novel tells the story of two Cuban brothers who journey from Havana to New York to start an orchestra. At one point in the story, the brothers appear on the television sitcom “I Love Lucy,” which starred Lucille Ball and her Cuban bandleader husband, Desi Arnaz. The book was eventually turned into a movie starring Armand Assante and Antonio Banderas.
In his 2011 memoir, “Thoughts Without Cigarettes,” Hijuelos writes of how he struggled against being labeled an “ethnic” writer and notes that even today there are few other Latinos whose work, despite the considerable number of talented authors, has been awarded the same recognition.
Hijuelos was born and raised in New York City and attended local community colleges.