The Age-Old Trick of ‘Passing’: Fiction Writer the Latest to be Disgraced by Lies About Heritage
I have never known a man who faked his own death, but I have known a man who faked his own life, then sadly failed to live long enough for us to talk about it.
I’m talking about the late Hache Carrillo, a rising, award-winning literary talent whose reputation grew quickly after the publication of his 2004 novel, “Loosing My Espanish,” about a Cuban-born high school history teacher in Chicago.
With his playful use of Spanish and “Spanglish,” a mashup of English and Spanish, the book impressed critics with its mix of colonial history and personal memories that centered on his Afro-Cuban roots and queer identity.
But Carrillo’s reputation took a shocking turn after his death from COVID-19 in early 2020. About a month after he died, the Washington Post published an obituary about his life, then corrected it with a revised version the next day — along with an editor’s note.
It turned out that many of the stories Carrillo had been telling people about himself were untrue.
As his sister and niece informed the Post, his name was not Hache Gernan Carrillo but Herman Glenn Carroll, the name his family called him. He was born and raised in Detroit, not Cuba. In fact, nobody in the family had Latino heritage.
What went wrong? His niece Jessica Webley told the Post that once he started writing and gaining fame in the 1990s, they seldom saw him.
Needless to say, those of us who knew Hache personally view him a bit differently now.
My wife, Lisa Page, knew him at George Washington University, where they both taught creative writing, and at the PEN/Faulkner Foundation, where he chaired the board of directors.
“I thought of him as a sweet and complicated genius,” she wrote in an essay for the Post, “devoted to his students and to the evolving literary world.
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