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My interest in reading Oscar Hijuelos s memoir began because of the title oh, and a mention on NPR I soon realized an early 90 s movie starring a young Antonio Banderas and the smoldering Armand Asante was based on OH s Pulitzer prize winning book The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love Even better I loved The Mambo Kings movie for the sexy actors, but also for the 50 s mambo atmosphere You could almost smell the biting cigarette smoke, cheap cologne and rum tainted sweat on Armand Asante and Mamba dance halls I was hoping forof the same in this book as the author spoke of his Cuban background and upbringing Plus the dude won a Pulitzer how does one do that This I needed to know However That atmosphere never materialized in his biography because Oscar spent much of his life denying his Cubano ness Oh not overtly, he just blended in better than most because of his paler skin Him losing his ability to speak his native Spanish early due to prolonged stays in a convalescing home in NYC because of a childhood illness, didn t help much either He did little to correct others assumptions as he grew up Aside from the homogenized life he actually lived, for me the disappointing factor in this book was that he didn t get to his writing till the last quarter of the book But when he did, I was hooked Especially with all the name dropping John Irving, John Gardner, Norman Mailer et.al And too the guy received a fellow IN ROME, ITALY So cool and what I wouldn t give to be paid to write IN ROME The stuff of dreams I also found it fascinating how the titles for his books came to him through dreams and visions really And he states this so matter of factly and in such a self effacing manner I believe it s so Totally inspired Still, there s the beginning of the book The majority of our time in his memoir is spent on his guilt and shame of not connecting to his parents and his origins And thats really all there is to it How ironic the fact that he was indeed Cuban American became the major contributing factor to him receiving the Pulitzer., imo.However cathartic it must have been for him to write his life story, at least I pray all the morose prose got him somewhere , it just made the book tiresome.So, 2 stars hey, it woulda been a one star if it weren t for the ending. Angela s Ashes Cuban spice I just loved reading this book Unfortunately, I wrote a review, then succeeded in losing it, so here s the shortened version Hijuelos writing is masterful He writes a true memoir, engaging the reader in all his worries, confusion, triumphs, and fears, as he tells his life s story as he perceives it His parents are from Cuba, although he was born in the U.S On a visit to Cuba, he contracts a disease and has to spend a year of his life at a medical facility in Connecticut He is only four years old when this happens a crucial point in his development The rest of his story focuses on growing up in a household in which he often feels like an outsider Speaking only English the year he was sick, he can no longer speak Spanish confidently Adding to his discomfort is his own skewed identification as a light haired, light skinned Cuban At times the story is humorous, but there is much sadness and regret, as well Hijuelos relates his story in that interesting upheaval in the world known as the 60 s and 70 s The memoir continues as Hijuelos travels an indirect path to become a writer His novel, The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love earns him notoriety as the first Latino to be awarded the Pulitzer Prize in fiction His route to fame is circuitous, but the accomplished, successful people he meets along the way, make for fascinating reading Hijuelos is adept at self deprecation He cleverly introduces unique, life altering situations from his life, creating a story that reads like a personal conversation with the author I will definitely readof his work. I won this book through Good Reads First Reads This was B O R I N G Are his other novels mainly The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love this bad Cuz tell me how did he win a Pulitzer Maybe that it is mandatory for the award.Anyway, the writing is so incredibly dry I could only read a few pages at a time, and I can read a book in a few hours if I enjoy it And the name dropping throughout the ENTIRE book I don t really care if you ate dinner with Sigorney Weaver or jammed with Duane Allman I m not at all impressed by an accomplished author s famous friends Now if one of my non famous friends were to jam with Duane Allman, that would be another story entirely.I m not one to give up on a book, but I came awfully close over and over again while reading this I think this book could have been muchinteresting and entertaining in a different voice.Don t waste your time ( DOWNLOAD EPUB ) ♠ Thoughts Without Cigarettes ⚖ The Beloved Pulitzer Prize Winning Novelist Turns His Pen To The Real People And Places That Have Influenced His Life And, In Turn, His Literature Growing Up InS Working Class New York City To Cuban Immigrants, Hijuelos Journey To Literary Acclaim Is The Evolution Of An Unlikely Writer Oscar Hijuelos Has Enchanted Readers With Vibrant Characters Who Hunger For Success, Love, And Self Acceptance In His First Work Of Nonfiction, Hijuelos Writes From The Heart About The People And Places That Inspired His International Bestselling Novels Born In Manhattan S Morningside Heights To Cuban Immigrants In , Hijuelos Introduces Readers To The Colorful Circumstances Of His Upbringing The Son Of A Cuban Hotel Worker And Exuberant Poetry Writing Mother, His Story, Played Out Against The Backdrop Of An Often Prejudiced Working Class Neighborhood, Takes On An Even Richer Dimension When His Relationship To His Family And Culture Changes Forever During A Sojourn In Pre Castro Cuba With His Mother, He Catches A Disease That Sends Him Into A Dickensian Home For Terminally Ill Children The Yearlong Stay Estranges Him From The Very Language And People He Had So Loved With A Cast Of Characters Whose Stories Are Both Funny And Tragic, Thoughts Without Cigarettes Follows Hijuelos S Subsequent Quest For His True Identity Into Adulthood, Through College And Beyond A Mystery Whose Resolution He Eventually Discovers Hidden Away In The Trappings Of His Fiction, And Which Finds Its Most Glorious Expression In His Best Known Book, The Mambo Kings Play Songs Of Love Illuminating The Most Dazzling Scenes From His Novels, Thoughts Without Cigarettes Reveals The True Stories And Indelible Memories That Shaped A Literary Genius Getting bored with it I WANT to be interested, but it s dragging. Oscar Hijuelos was four years old when he contracted nephritis during a visit with family in Cuba The resulting hospital stay would alter his life forever He went into the hospital as a Spanish speaking first generation Cuban American After a year of being insulted and treated badly by English speaking nurses solely because he did not understand what they said to him, he came out of the hospital as an English speaking former Cuban I was appalled at the way the nurses treated a small child because of his language and heritage Apparently, this experience scarred him to the extent that even after returning to his Spanish speaking home, he refused to speak even one word of Spanish, or even acknowledge that he understood it when he heard it spoken I find it ironic that he was chastised in the hospital for not knowing English, then spent years at odds with his family for not speaking Spanish.Due to his hospital stay, Hijuelos started school late, and unable to read either English or Spanish He struggled with English, feeling that it was somehow forbidden to him Despite that, he is now very articulate and even eloquent at times I find it interesting that he didn t even like to read growing up, preferring comic books because he could see what was happening without being hampered by words He seems to have grown out of that He is the first Latino to win the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.I liked that there were gaps in his memory and that he doesn t claim to remember or know every single thing that has ever happened I find that this makes memoirsbelievable There was quite a lot of name dropping, but Hijuelos did have the benefit of being involved in the NYC literary arts community Attending several NYC colleges and universities over the years, he also had a broader pool of students and professors than most people would have I did get the feeling that the author became successful in spite of himself He turns down or just plain misses opportunities that many aspiring authors would trade anything for.This is not a dull, dry recitation of the author s life There is some rambling from time to time, and I had to look up some of the writers mentioned as well as some of the Spanish slang I understood the regular Spanish Small stories of incidents woven through the book keep it interesting and often humorous Such as when we read about how smoking an iguana out of a butchered pig ended with the entire family chasing and killing tarantulas Or how Hijuelos sent a frustrated mugger to steal from Columbia students because City College students were too poor This isn t the best memoir I ve ever read, but it is worth reading.I won this book in a Goodreads First reads giveaway.This review is part of my Hurricane Relief Review a thon. What Thoughts Without Cigarettes genuinely reminded me of was my childhood Oscar Hijuelos has a very easy writing style that borders on conversation I was taken back to the days where my grandfather used to sit around and tell stories about when he was young Always interesting, sometimes a bit confusing, and maybe a little rambling, the stories were a part of who he was While reading this I felt like I was transported back to that time Except this time it was Oscar Hijuelos sitting there and sharing his history with me, and I was definitely paying attention.I m not a huge reader of memoirs to be honest If I choose one, it has to hold my attention and to do that it has to be well written Hijuelos has a very straight, and frank writing style Fans of memoirs will appreciate the confessional style with which he bears his soul to the reader However this can also be a little confusing at times There were paragraphs that I was presented with that were just one extremely long run on sentence Also, it was tough sometimes to pin point key people in Hijelous life, since he often ran on other tangents while telling a story On the bright side, his writing is also very evocative and descriptive While reading I could close my eyes and picture the run down apartment he grew up in, or the bars he frequented with their smoky rooms and sultry singers That was definitely a key element to my appreciation of this memoir.Eventhan a story of his growing into a writer though, Thoughts Without Cigarettes is the story of a boy who becomes a man A rags to riches tale if you will What really drew me in was the fact that such an amazing author, such a lyrical writer, came from such a difficult life Feeling like an outcast from your own culture is something that I was able to connect with personally, and I felt for him every step of the way in his explanation However, Hijuelos not only shares his boyhood with us, but populates it with people who are vivid and true Although I don t know a single one of these people personally, I feel like I met them simply through his descriptions of them He isn t afraid to share both the good and parts of his life Whether an event was for the better or the worse, it s all there in black and white I m rambling now, so I ll wrap it up For those of you out there who enjoy memoirs, and are looking for your next read, pick up Thoughts Without Cigarettes Even if you aren t a huge fan of memoirs, this is a great one to start with Oscar Hijuelos has a history that is definitely interesting With some of the best descriptive writing I ve seen, and a story that is deep and honest, it is well worth a read. Although Oscar Hijuelos is known for his fiction his second novel, The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love, made him the first Latino to win the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction this memoir was the first book of his that I d read, and I went into it not knowing anything about him He has an unusual story the American born son of Cuban immigrants, he was hospitalized for a year at age four and, during that time, surrounded by the English language, he lost his ability to speak Spanish and returned home to find he could barely communicate with his mother He spent the rest of his childhood surrounded by Cuban culture but unable to feel a part of it his pale skin and hair only contributed to a general sense that he wasn t like the rest of his family and neighbors Thoughts Without Cigarettes is something of a rags to riches tale he describes the squalor of his childhood apartment in New York and admits that he barely graduated from high school, though he spent the next several years working his way through various City University of New York institutions and became a first generation college graduate who found himself fascinated with music and literature To hear him tell it, he stumbled into success in spite of his efforts to the contrary his self doubt and lingering sense of being an outsider or impostor caused him to decline a number of opportunities along the way, ranging from the chance to study at the University of Iowa Writers Workshop to an offer to write movie scripts Hijuelos writes with a frank, confessional style that I found very enjoyable, though he has a tendency to let his thoughts run together so that sometimes an entire paragraph turns out to be a single meandering sentence I couldn t always keep all of the people in his life straight and sometimes couldn t remember which person he was talking about when he d reintroduce someone s first name several chapters later, but that didn t stop me from wanting to learnabout his life and follow the book through to the end.I do have to admit that while I assume he quit smoking at some point, he only ever talks about what a heavy smoker he was and never actually addresses why he might have written his memoir without cigarettes, leaving me a little confused about his choice of title I figured that at some point, him quitting smoking would become a plot point, and it never did. Perhaps in an attempt to make this seemconversational or poignant, this book was overly peppered with a plague of commas, parentheses, and emdashes The sentence structure was so fractured as to make reading this otherwise sturdy memoir almost unbearable, but then Hijuelos himself admits that he didn t want to write it and perhaps there is a genius in writing such a work in a way that makes it almost as torturous for the reader as it must have been for the writer I ll give you an example of one of the many stilted sentences you might encounter, I even took some pages I had been fooling around with to Max s one night, and visiting my friend Pete backstage in the dressing room area a row of curtained cubicles that didn t afford much privacy at all I met the fly Deborah Harry, lead singer of Blondie sorry again , also on the bill, and did my best to win her favor by offering to give her the pages I had written page 252.At this point, I m not even sure if Hijuelos is apologizing to Deborah Harry or to the readers for all the name dropping in that particular passage.On the other hand, this structure did lend itself to spending a great deal of time with the author While I can typically finish a book of this length in a few days, this took me longer than I anticipated and really made me ruminate over what the author was saying Additionally, I m not sure if this is a stylistic approach taken by Cuban and or Latino authors, if so, then this isof a problem with me reading a whole bunch of White Dudes and just being unfamiliar to the rhythms and whatevers of Non White Dude writing I have been exposed to White Dude, therefore I tend to like White Dude, it s a problem sometimes.I will say that I think Hijuelos did a fantastic job of capturing the second generation American immigrant experience as well as the writerly feeling of self loathing, even when one has Made It It also works well to capture a specific era of American and particularly New York history, and that alone will make it an interesting read for those willing to put the effort into it.