Gustavo Pérez Firmat was born in Havana, Cuba, and raised in Miami, Florida. He was educated at Miami-Dade Community College, The University of Miami, and The University of Michigan, where he earned a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature. Gustavo taught at Duke University from 1979 to 1999 and is currently the David Feinson Professor in the Humanities at Columbia University. Pérez Firmat has been the recipient of fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Council of Learned Societies, and the Mellon Foundation. In 2004 he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
A writer and scholar, he is the author of many books and numerous essays and reviews. He has published several collections of poetry in English and Spanish — Carolina Cuban (1987); Equivocaciones (1989); Bilingual Blues (1995); Scar Tissue (2005) — a novella, Anything but Love (2000); and a memoir, Next Year in Cuba. Next Year in Cuba was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in non-fiction; His 1994 book Life on the Hyphen was awarded the Eugene M. Kayden University Press National Book Award for 1994 and received Honorable Mention in the Modern Language Association’s Katherine Singer Kovacs Prize and the Latin American Studies Association’s Bryce Wood Book Award.
In 1997 Newsweek included Gustavo among “100 Americans to watch for the 21st century” and Hispanic Business Magazine selected him as one of the “100 most influential Hispanics” in the United States. In 2004 Pérez Firmat was named one of New York’s thirty “outstanding Latinos” by El Diario La Prensa. In 2005 he was selected Educator of the Year by the National Association of Cuban American Educators.
Gustavo and Mary Anne have been married for 19 years – she is a retired university administrator.