The double life of H.G Carrillo, the writer who invented a life as a Latino
After his death last April from complications of a previous illness and COVID-19, the true identity of the alleged "Cuban" came to light.
Literature punishes impostors. It did so with Jeanine Cummins, trying to hang the author's medal of the great book on Mexican migration in the U.S. and it has done it again with H.G Carrillo, another writer like her, who, despite his tragic death - he died from COVID-19 last April while also coping with cancer - lived more than a decade feeding his work and his biography of a false Latin identity. Did he really believe it, or did he just jump on a bandwagon that for the rest of the authors of color has a broken wheel? Crazy or tricky, this is his story.
H.G Carrillo liked to say in his speech at the universities that he didn't have "grandparents", he had "abuelitos." He also boasted of having epic discussions with his publishers, who tried to translate some terms of his novels into English, reluctant to abandon his native language, Spanish.
So far so good. Because H.G. was born in Cuba, that's what he said. He had a tough childhood and a tough migration, and when he arrived in Michigan as his Cuban compatriots did, aboard a small boat, he became the symbol of the migrant who succeeds in the States: A writer writing about the diaspora, his English intermingled with Spanish. An activist.
Only he wasn't Cuban, not even Latino. He was born in Detroit. His name was Herman Glenn Carroll and the most surprised people of his first book, published in 2004, were his parents, who complained "oh, what have we done to make our boy ashamed to be an American?." The world was upside down.
But lying has very short legs, especially when someone is " well-known." So when H.G. Carrillo died tragically, his sister phoned the Washington Post to correct some "slight" errors in his obituary. Basically, EVERYTHING. Or almost everything. Susan Carroll said the family was baffled when his first novel was published and they saw that Glenn was described as Cuban. Her mother was "very hurt by the whole thing and I confronted Glenn," the sister added.
Carrillo's husband, who lived in Maryland with the writer, was shocked by the revelation in the midst of mourning his death. "I only knew his family from the text," Dennis told the Post. "Now I understand why he never introduced me to them."
Even his agent, Stuart Bernstein, was knocked out because he could not explain how Carrillo, who debuted at age 30 with a novel entitled Loosing My Espanish, starring a Cuban who is about to be fired from his job at a school, could have taken this story so far. "I spent the weekend absorbing all this," he said. "I'm not there yet."