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Gilb’s first publication was a small press chapbook out of El Paso, Winners on the Pass Line (1985), which came after he won his first literary prize, the James D. Phelan Award from the San Francisco Foundation. The book’s first notice was heard on National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered” in a review by Alan Cheuse. Gilb went on to earn more recognition, including a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship and the Texas Institute of Letters’ Dobie Paisano Fellowship.
Six books later, Dagoberto Gilb’s work has been translated into French, Italian, Japanese, German, Spanish, and Dutch. Anthologized in many literary and college composition textbooks, his fiction and nonfiction is taught in Chicano, Latino, American, and Western literature courses. His work has been honored by national prizes, such as the Whiting Writers’ Award and the John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship, and recognized through the El Paso Writer’s Hall of Fame, the Library of Congress Archive of Hispanic Literature on Tape, and the Texas Book Festival’s Bookend Award for Ongoing Literary Achievement.
Gilb is currently a tenured professor in the Creative Writing Program at Texas State University.
Q. Are you a native Texan or did you get here as soon as you could?
A. I’ve lived in Texas so long now I almost can’t remember. I was born in Los Angeles, but you have to understand that half of Chicano LA is a suburb of El Paso. To me, the best of LA looks like El Paso, which is where I spent most of my adult life prior to Austin, where I raised a family, and where I still wish I could live today, much as I, like everyone, love A-town.
Q. How did you end up writing fiction?
A. Probably the same way I ended up being a high-rise carpenter for 16 years and then suddenly an English professor for these last 14. God only knows how to explain these seemingly extra-terrestrial phenomena. Maybe I got electro-shock and don’t remember anything immediately before the jolt fried the juice. What I say: I write fiction as an investigative reporter for an ontological periodical (that doesn’t pay me well enough!), driven as I am to do as good a job as I can for it, pay aside, because that’s how I roll. Being from Los Angeles and the Southwest, now Texas too, my reporting comes from the far outreaches of American culture, what my east coast bosses would call the Mexican American or Chicano beat.
Q. What book marketing activities made you a bestselling author?
A. When I go to the market I like to buy the most colorful vegetables and fruits possible. Not only jalapeños and serranos, but red peppers, tomate, white onion and calabasa, squash of all sorts, and corn, broccoli. I love bananas and berries and mango and papaya and avocado—I love avocado…oh, you wrote BOOK marketing. What is that? Where is that? You see my trouble. I have no idea how I am such a bestselling author, though I know I am, because I am sure all your readers have several copies of each of my last six books.
Q. Tell us about your latest release. Is it set in Texas?
A. My latest comes out November 1 this year. Before the End, After the Beginning is a collection of stories that are set around the region I myself have lived, which is to say Los Angeles, El Paso, and Austin. It is an important book for me because, two years ago to the day I write this, I had a stroke that nearly killed me. I am still damaged, but I live on, and this book is an announcement to the celestials above and earth spirits around and beneath us that I am not finished yet. I would also hope that people look at my last book, the novel The Flowers, which I am proud of, an intimate story of an LA-like city twisting into a race riot.
Q. Where can we pay you a virtual visit?
A. I am lame at this. There is now a Facebook page just started for me. The address seems long: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Austin-TX/Dagoberto-Gilb/156371697723749
Also www.dagobertogilb.com, a page my publisher, Grove Press, has built for me.