Authors: Virgil Suárez

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Cuban-born American novelist and poet

Identity: Cuban American

Author Works

Long Fiction:

Latin Jazz, 1989

The Cutter, 1991

Havana Thursdays, 1995

Going Under, 1996

Short Fiction:

Welcome to the Oasis, and Other Stories, 1992

Poetry:

You Come Singing, 1998

Garabato Poems, 1999

In the Republic of Longing, 1999

Palm Crows, 2001

Banyan, 2001

Guide to the Blue Tongue, 2002

Edited Texts:

Iguana Dreams: New Latino Fiction, 1992 (with Delia Poey)

Paper Dance: Fifty-five Latino Poets, 1995 (with Victor Hernández and Leroy V. Quintana)

Little Havana Blues: A Cuban-American Literature Anthology, 1996 (with Poey)

American Diaspora: Poetry of Displacement, 2001 (with Ryan G. Van Cleave)

Like Thunder: Poets Respond to Violence in America, 2002 (with Van Cleave)

Miscellaneous:

Spared Angola: Memories from a Cuban-American Childhood, 1997 (short stories, poetry, and essays)

Infinite Refuge, 2002 (sketches, poetry, memories, and fragments of short stories)

Biography

Virgil Suárez (SWA-rays), the son of a pattern cutter and a piecemeal seamstress who worked in the sweatshops of Havana, left Cuba in 1970 with his family. After four years in Madrid, Spain, they went to Los Angeles. A man of many interests and prolific literary output, Suárez raised three daughters with his wife in Florida. His multitude of works in numerous genres deal with immigration, exile, and acclimatization to life and culture in the United States as well as the hopes and struggles of Cubans and Cuban Americans who had to abandon their island home under political duress.{$I[A]Suárez, Virgil}{$I[geo]CUBA;Suárez, Virgil}{$I[geo]UNITED STATES;Suárez, Virgil}{$I[geo]LATINO;Suárez, Virgil}{$I[tim]1962;Suárez, Virgil}

A self-confessed obsessive, whether about his family, his hobbies, or his writing, Suárez is preoccupied by voice. He cites physical place as paramount in the process of finding and producing his voice, whether in prose or poetry. Initially recognized for his fiction, Suárez has written poetry since 1978, though he only began to publish it in the mid-1990’s. He believes that voice is most important in poetry because of poetry’s space limitations. He feels so strongly about maintaining the authenticity of his personal voice that he discards any poem he believes does not respect and represent his voice.

That voice is of an immigrant who, although he has spent the majority of his life in his adopted land and does not expect to return to Cuba, still does not feel completely acclimated. Suárez writes about what he knows: the nature and travails of exile. Appropriately, given his mixed feelings, Suárez writes in English and includes a sprinkling of Spanish, reiterated in English. Nonetheless, critics characterize Suárez’s style as unwavering, definitive, and direct.

Suárez finished his secondary schooling in Los Angeles and received a B.A. in creative writing from California State University, Long Beach, in 1984. He studied at the University of Arizona and received an M.F.A. in creative writing from Louisiana State University in 1987. In addition to having been a visiting professor at the University of Texas in Austin in 1997, Suárez has taught at the University of Miami, Florida International University, Miami-Dade Community College, and Florida State University in Tallahassee.

Suárez’s poems alone have appeared in more than 250 magazines and journals. He has also been a book reviewer for the Los Angeles Times, the Miami Herald, The Philadelphia Inquirer, and The Tallahassee Democrat. He is a member of PEN, the Academy of American Poets, the Associated Writing Programs, and the Modern Language Association.

Nominated for five Pushcart Prizes, Suárez was a featured lecturer at the Smithsonian Institution in 1997. He received a Florida State Individual Artist grant in 1998 and a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in 2001-2002 to write a poetry work. His volume Garabato Poems was named Generation Ñ magazine’s Best Book of 1999. He served as a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship panel judge in 1999 and a Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation panelist in 2000.

BibliographyAlvarez-Borland, Isabel. Cuban-American Literature of Exile: From Person to Persona. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 1998.Alvarez-Borland, Isabel. “Displacements and Autobiography in Cuban American Fiction.” World Literature Today 68, no. l (1994): 43-49.Cortina, Rodolfo. “A Perfect Hotspot.” In Hispanic American Literature. Lincolnwood, Ill.: NTC, 1998.Herrera, Andrea O’Reilly. “Song for the Royal Palms of Miami.” In ReMembering Cuba: Legacy of a Diaspora. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2001.
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