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Author Dagoberto Gilb reads from his collection of personal essays at the Market Square Art Space

If you haven't heard of Dagoberto Gilb, it's probably just as well. Because if you have, there is a good chance that you have heard that he's a big, gruff sort of guy, a hot-blooded machismo out for some action, a Chicano writer. But the best stories about Gilb are the true ones - the ones he tells about himself. In his new book, Gritos, the author exposes himself as a pocho, a union carpenter, a blue-collar construction worker, a husband, a father, a provider, a "mercenary" at Southwest Texas State University, an award-winning author - both proud and humbled by the attentions from his readership, colleagues, and contemporaries.

Culled from personal essays he has written over the past 20 years, Gritos is Gilb's fourth book, following two short story collections and his novel, The Last Known Residence of Mickey Acuña. Essays range from "Dreams Come True," an early journal entry and the oldest selection in the book, to quick, three-page essays that Gilb more recently wrote for NPR's "Fresh Air."

Reading and book signing
Friday, August 15
Market Square Art Space
102 Concho, Market Square
"I've been writing essays for years and wanted to put it all together," explains Gilb. "I had a lot of pages. Then I started wondering what it was about, and I saw this story. I was a construction worker coming out of the hole, coming out as a writer. Of course, some of the arc was lost in the arrangement." By this, Gilb means a Grove Press editor's decision not to order the essays chronologically, but to divide them into one of four loosely thematic segments: "Culture Crossing," "Cortés and Malinche," "The Writing Life," and "Working Life and La Family." The sequencing gives the reader an intimate glimpse of Gilb's culture, relationships, art, and family.

"I've lived raw," says Gilb. "When I write, I'm not really thinking of selling. I'm just trying to be honest. I hope I'm rewarded when I hit the gate. They'll list all my crimes, but then I get to say, 'Yeah, but didn't I tell the truth along the way?'"

Although Gilb's publishers have scheduled three book tours for as many books, he will not be touring behind Gritos. "Essays are notorious for not

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Dagoberto Gilb
selling," remarks Gilb. "I think that it was a mistake not putting me on a tour for this one. But I don't like public readings. I can handle it, but I'm not a spoken word person. I'm not a performer. We've become accustomed to this public thing, but it isn't what a true writer does. I come from that tradition. You're not supposed to take on publicity, you're supposed to write. But unless you stick yourself out there, the book won't sell.

"This is the best job I've ever had - and I've had lots of jobs. I've been fired from a lot of them, and I don't want to lose this one."

On Friday, August 15, Gilb will read from Gritos at Market Square Art Space, with an opening reading from local poet Amalia Ortiz. Artist César Martínez, who designed the book's cover and the inside illustrations, will be selling a limited edition suite of "Grito Interno" prints.

It's a good time to get to know Dagoberto Gilb firsthand. •

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