Windy City Media Group Frontpage News
Celebrating 30 Years of Gay Lesbian Bisexual and Trans News
home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2020-05-13
DOWNLOAD ISSUE
About WCMG Publications News  Entertainment Features Donate Bars & Clubs Calendar Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage

Sponsor
Sponsor

  WINDY CITY TIMES

PASSAGES A tribute to H.G. Carrillo
by Gerard Wozek
2020-05-18

facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email


Afro-Cuban writer/professor Herman "H.G." Carrillo ( known for his 2004 novel Loosing My Espanish, which deals with the experience of a Cuban immigrant in Chicago wrestling with racial and queer identities ) passed away April 20 due to COVID-19.

Gerard Wozek—who was a graduate student alongside Carrillo at DePaul University—wrote the following tribute:

In memoriam: H.G. Carrillo, April 26, 1960-April 20, 2020

I've never been to Havana.

But being close to writer H.G. Carrillo in the late nineties, I had a visceral sense of the mythical atmosphere and architecture of that city by the ocean where he was born in the spring of 1960. Knowing him, I began to understand his proud Afro-Cuban identity, and how challenging it was for him to grow up here in the United States, wanting so fiercely to rewrite American culture and to be profoundly understood as a scholar, a teacher, a queer activist, and I think especially, as an acclaimed novelist who wanted to enlarge and expand upon the immigrant experience within his own creative body of work.

When I was told that Herman ( as I knew him back then in Chicago—though later he preferred the nickname "Hache" ) had succumbed to COVID-19, I went numb. In disbelief, I searched online for an obituary, a news article, an update to his Wikipedia page, something that would officially validate his passing and confirm for me that the unthinkable had really occurred.

What happens when a particularly gifted and talented writer is taken away in the prime of his life, when there is so much work left to be done? Herman fought hard to have a voice, to be heard. How can his legacy be maintained?

His death made me go back to our beginning. Herman and I began an intimate, though discreet, personal relationship during graduate school at DePaul University, where we were both enrolled in a masters of writing program in 1997. It was nearly impossible to resist the lure of someone so charming, so clever and—ultimately, as anyone who knew him will testify—intellectually charismatic. Our first date was at Chicago's Cafe Iberico, a late-night tapas bar where we shyly held hands over a conversation that included his arcane references to the discography of his favorite rock band, Nirvana; the enigmatic character of painter Andrew Wyeth; Henry James being an indispensable spirit mentor to him as an author; and how,more often than not, the heady influences of American film noir as well as Japanese cinema had influenced his elliptical writing style.

We shared a bed, but more so, we shared an unforgettable ongoing dialogue about art and philosophy, about how to carefully craft a short story to include a sense of surprise and urgency for the reader, and about how to cultivate self-inspiration as well as perseverance throughout the sometimes arduous process of sustained writing ( which is ultimately about the absolute acceptance of continual rewrites ).

"It's never really finished," he would often quip. "The paint on the canvas is never really dry. I always go back, even when it's been published, and cross out, reorder and amend."

One might say that Herman was a perfectionist. He would leave my loft apartment in Chicago's Printer's Row and head to his own home to write—sometimes through the entire night—always looking for that right combination of words, often mixing the English language with Spanglish, to convey to the reader just exactly what he was after. He would share early sketches of Oscar Delossantos, the protagonist who shape-shifts through the complex narrative of what would later become his debut novel, Loosing My Espanish. I couldn't help but notice some parallels between the writer I knew then and the portrait of this emerging fictional character, who sought freedom from the Cuban Revolution and reconciliation with a past that left him unsteady with his sexuality and racial identity in the United States.

His creative stamina eventually landed him in an MFA program at Cornell University and alignment with a literary agent who would bring his novel to world. While time and distance pulled us irreconcilably apart, I never completely unloosed my connection to him. In 2003, on the verge of his literary debut, I published a short story titled "Goodbye Cuba" that attempted to negotiate the challenges of disentangling from our soured romance, hoping it would provide a coda to something that in the end was unnameable yet utterly life-changing for both of us.

I continued my teaching position at a college in Chicago and followed him from a distance, through news stories, academic postings, conversations between mutual acquaintances at academic conferences. After he launched his novel to wide acclaim, he embraced remarkable accolades and professional success. Herman gave generously at numerous writer's retreats; took on the role of professor, advisor and beloved mentor to his students at George Washington University in D.C.; and rose to chair of the PEN/Faulkner Foundation, where he contributed to education programs as well as grants and awards until his untimely death.

He penned numerous stories for a number of prestigious journals, though today, it might be challenging to locate them. Along with the magnificent, unwieldy Loosing My Espanish, I trust that somewhere there's the unfinished manuscript of his second novel, and that it will surface as a posthumous work.

I vividly recall one night in my loft when, after a conversation held over too many glasses of champagne cocktails, Herman introduced me to the music of Cuban salsa queen Celia Cruz. He played for me a song from the 1950's titled "Tu Voz" ( Spanish for "Your Voice." ) As he moved in rhythm to the mid-tempo bolero, lip-syncing to the lyrics of and mimicking through an exaggeration of the vibrato in her husky contralto voice, everything seemed to fade and dim. The Chicago skyline blocking the lakefront had melted into sea-sprayed palm trees lining some coastal road in Havana. And there was Herman, crooning in the spotlight, backed by a full-suited orchestra, taking into his hand a Turkish Royal Camel cigarette and inhaling the smoke so elegantly, as though a delicate cloud was hovering over his open mouth.

"They will remember your voice," I recall saying after he invited me to softly sway in my apartment, now transformed into a tropical open-air nightclub.

Today, those words acquire a different resonance. It should be our mission to not let a great writer's work die with the writer. Herman's voice is one to be heard, one to be remembered. In the end, the only way to preserve a rare talent like H.G. Carrillo is to publish and read him.

—Gerard Wozek, May 15, 2020

Gerard Wozek is the author of Dervish ( Gival Press ) and Postcards From Hearthrob Town ( Southern Tier Editions ). He currently teaches writing at Roosevelt University in Chicago.


facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email





Windy City Media Group does not approve or necessarily agree with the views posted below.
Please do not post letters to the editor here. Please also be civil in your dialogue.
If you need to be mean, just know that the longer you stay on this page, the more you help us.


  ARTICLES YOU MIGHT LIKE

Gay News

BOOK REVIEW Calamity: The Many Lives of Calamity Jane 2020-05-25 - You can call yourself whatever you want. Nobody says you can't have a different name every day, if that's your wish. Reinvent your ...


Gay News

On Memorial Day, LGBT monuments honor those who have died 2020-05-24 - Memorial Day is a time to honor military personnel who have made the ultimate sacrifice while serving in the United States Armed Forces. ...


Gay News

Gerber/Hart Library hosts virtual panel on The 10% Show 2020-05-16 - The 10% Show was the focus of a May 13 virtual panel hosted by Gerber/Hart Library and Archives. A cable access Chicago-based LGBTQ ...


Gay News

Melissa Etheridge's son dies at age 21 2020-05-14 - Beckett Cypher—the son of Melissa Etheridge and her former partner Julie Cypher—died, according to media reports. He was 21. Etheridge, on Twitter, said, ...


Gay News

Comedian Cameron Esposito's new memoir digs into queer liberation, Catholic upbringing 2020-05-12 - Cameron Esposito's new memoir, Save Yourself, is the story she needed when she was younger. The lesbian comedian tracks the story of her ...


Gay News

Trans-rights advocate Aimee Stephens dies 2020-05-12 - Aimee Stephens—the Michigan transgender funeral home worker whose firing led to a U.S. Supreme Court case that could decide the employment rights of ...


Gay News

BOOKS New book explores life of astronomer-turned-activist Kameny 2020-05-12 - Dr. Eric Cervini—a Harvard and Cambridge-trained historian sometimes known as the "Hunky Historian"—reveals the secret history of the fight for LGBTQ rights that ...


Gay News

PASSAGES Rock icon Little Richard dies at 87 2020-05-09 - Little Richard—a founding father of rock 'n' roll who was known for his flamboyant style and pompadour as well as hits such as ...


Gay News

PASSAGES Roy Horn, of Siegfried & Roy, dies at 75 2020-05-09 - Roy Horn, of Siegfried & Roy—the duo whose magic tricks with big cats astonished millions until Horn was critically injured in 2003 by ...


Gay News

PASSAGES Anjanette Miller 2020-05-06 - Anjanette "AJ" Miller—a registered nurse who lived in Skokie—passed away at Glenbrook Hospital due to COVID-19 on April 14. She was 48. Born ...


 



Copyright © 2020 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.

 

 

 

TRENDINGBREAKINGPHOTOS

Sponsor
Sponsor
Sponsor


 



About WCMG Publications News  Entertainment Features Donate Bars & Clubs Calendar Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage


About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots      OUT! Guide     
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Subscriptions      Distribution      Windy City Queercast     
Queercast Archives      Advertising  Rates      Deadlines      Advanced Search     
Press  Releases      Event Photos      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Post an Event      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam      Outguide Categories      Outguide Advertisers      Search Outguide      Travel      Dining Out      Blogs      Spotlight  Video     
Classifieds      Real Estate      Place a  Classified     

Windy City Media Group publishes Windy City Times,
The Bi-Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.