VIRGIL SUAREZ is the only son of a pattern-cutter and piecemeal seamstress working the sweatshops, Virgil Suarez was born in Havana, Cuba in 1962 and raised in the United States since 1974. Suarez is the holder of an MFA in Creative Writing (1987) from Louisiana State University where he studied with Vance Bourjaily. While at the University of Arizona for one year, he studied with Sir Angus Wilson and Robert Houston. He is currently an associate professor of creative writing at Florida State University in Tallahassee. Although educated in the United States from the age of twelve, Suarez has been preoccupied with the themes of immigration, exile, and acclimatization to life and culture in the United States.
Suarez is the author of several novels and numerous stories, translations, essays, and poems, which have been published in literary journals and reviews the likes of Ploughshares, Prairie Schooner, The Kenyon Review, Clackamas Literary Review, TriQuarterly, Colorado Review, The Southern Review, The Massachusetts Review, American Literary Review, The American Voice, The Caribbean Review, The North American Review, Manoa: A Pacific Journal of International Writing, Puerto del Sol, Northwest Review, Mid-American Review, Blue Mesa Review, Crazy Horse, Cimarron, Tampa Review, and many others. He is also an active book reviewer for The Los Angeles Times, The Miami Herald, The Philadelphia Inquirer, and The Tallahassee Democrat, as well as editor of major and best-selling anthologies of Latino/a literature, including Iguana Dreams: New Latino Fiction (Harper Collins), Paper Dance: 55 Latino Poets (Persea Books), and Little Havana Blues (Arte Publico Press).
He has also published extensively internationally in Argentina, Australia, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Cuba, England, France, India, Israel, Spain, Venezuela, and New Zealand.
His first novel Latin Jazz (William Morrow/Simon Schuster), chronicles the experiences of a Cuban-American family in Los Angeles by adopting the narrative perspectives of each of the family members. New York's Newsday hailed the novel as "a striking debut. A well crafted and sensitive novel. An engrossing, honest book by a writer who cares deeply about preserving ties within the family unit and, by extension, within the Hispanic community and America. Suarez is marvelous."
His second novel, The Cutter (Ballantine), deals with the desperate attempts of a young sugar-cane cutter to leave Cuba and join his family in the United States. Publishers Weekly said that "Suarez's powerful novel about one individual's response to the abuses and arbitrariness of totalitarianism shows us how ordinary people can be driven to take extraordinary risks."
Havana Thursdays and Going Under (Arte Publico Press) are mature novels in which Suarez casts a critical eye at middle-class Cuban American life in Miami. Havana Thursdays brings together a family of exceptional women who are attending a funeral and are in the process of adjusting to their painful assessment of their lives. Going Under is the chronicle of a Cuban American yuppy who is sold on the American Dream: He is nervous and energetic and blind to the consequences of his feverish chase up the ladder of success. He loses sight of the important elements in his life: family, friends, identity.
Suarez's collection of short fiction, Welcome to the Oasis (Arte Publico Press, Chosen by New York Public Library's as one of the top books for the Teen Age) portrays a new generation of young Hispanics who struggle to integrate themselves into American culture while preserving pieces of their heritage. Kirkus Reviews baptized Suarez as a leading spokesperson for his generation of Cuban- Americans: Welcome to the Oasis is "a tightly controlled but affecting exploration of fundamental tensions in a community for whom Suarez is becoming an eloquent and promising voice."
The New York Times sized up Suarez's style and literary accomplishments: "Mr. Suarez writes in a cold, unornamental, Hemingwayesque style, always straight forward and cinematic." The Village Voice echoed praise: "Like Oscar Hijuelos, Suarez has taken pains with his craft, orchestrating points of view and narrative time. His forte is directness of description and action."
Most recently he has published a collection of prose and poetry titled Spared Angola: Memories From a Cuban-American Childhood. Publishers Weekly called Spared Angola "a tough little nugget of a book that sparkles." Mr. Suarez has conducted readings, workshops, and lectures in many universities, colleges, schools, book fairs, libraries, prisons, and community groups nationally and internationally. He is a member of PEN National and International, The Academy of American Poets, Associated Writers' Program, and Modern Languages Association. This year Mr. Suarez served a fiction judge for The National Endowment for the Arts. Three new books of poetry have come out in the last two years: You Come Singing (Tia Chucha Press/Northwestern University,) Garabato Poems (Wings Press, San Antonio,) and In the Republic of Longing (Arizona State University/Bilingual Review Press.) When Mr. Suarez is not out giving readings and lectures in the universities, colleges, and the community at large, he lives with his wife and daughters in Tallahassee, Florida, where he is an associate professor of Latino Literature and Creative Writing at Florida State University.