Fiction and Poetry

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Falling in Love with Fellow Prisoners

Publisher: Arte Publico Press 2013
ISBN: 1558857699
Order signed copies from Brazos Bookstore.

Publisher’s Description:
“Drive back and forth/A rush-hour tide/I strive to regain that feeling I felt/When I thought that this was worth it./The drive is gray./I cry.” Gwendolyn Zepeda, a Houston native who has struggled to escape the inner-city barrio she grew up in, wonders why she’s crying about her long commute to the suburbs. “I’m driving towards something I sure/Can’t complain about, something my/Parents could never have had.”

Single with three sons, Zepeda made her way in corporate America, “the cold, beige womb of a money-grubbing mother,” in the fight to provide them with better opportunities. Along the way, she has had to come to terms with the guilt of working in physical comfort while others work outside, trapped in dangerous jobs; the realization that the quality of her work doesn’t really matter to anyone; and obnoxious male bosses who need “a wife on the side,” or worse, proudly report their sons’ sexual exploits. She’s afraid, because “My whole life depends/On satisfying this man’s needs … My own son is my everything. He’s the/Only reason I’m here now this/Afternoon listening to this man [pee]/Into my brain.”
She’s an astute observer of people: her elders, full of bitterness; the stranger on the elevator, who exudes the smell of hate; the needy girl who’s broken and screams like a bird in her ear so that “I turn and slip away. I’ve/Had my fill. I’m in the water/Where it’s warm and deep and/She can’t follow./Goodbye. Good luck.” She’s compassionate and considerate, but Zepeda always chooses survival.

She has survived, even prospered, but her innermost fears still haunt her: “I like lying safe with you/Here in the dark, but still/Keep planning in case/I’m left alone.” Whether musing on dysfunctional relationships or parenthood, Gwendolyn Zepeda, the first Poet Laureate of Houston, captures the aching loneliness and vulnerability of contemporary urban life.

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Better with You Here

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing 2012
ISBN: 9780446564038
Order signed copies from Brazos Bookstore.

Publisher’s Description:
If you ask her, Natasha Davila will tell you there’s nothing more important to her than her kids. She’ll do anything for her son and daughter-even play nice with her ex-husband. Only now she’s facing a problem she never expected: her ex is re-marrying and suing for full custody. She could fall to pieces . . . or she could call on her friends. There’s Sara, whose tough talk hides a soft-and loyal-heart, and Haley, who has so much more to offer than a pretty face. When they’re together, Natasha doesn’t have to be someone’s wife or someone’s mother. She can just be. When Natasha’s ex ups the ante and exposes some disturbing news about her friends, she’s forced to cut ties. But can she really walk away from the women who have been standing by her side?

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Lone Star Legend

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing 2010
ISBN: 9780446539609
Order signed copies from Brazos Bookstore.

Publisher’s Description:
When Sandy Saavedra lands her dream job with the popular website ¡Latino Now!, she can’t wait to write hard-hitting pieces to combat all those stupid Latino stereotypes. While visions of Pulitzers dance in her head, her editor in chief is suddenly laid off, replaced by the infamous Dolores Villanueva O’Sullivan. Dolores has one mission: make ¡Latino Now! an internet phenomenon, no matter how many pandering puff pieces she has to pack onto its pages. Sandy doesn’t see how she can keep this job without losing her soul, especially when she’s sent to Middle-of-Nowhere Texas to investigate the dumbest legend her people ever created, the Chupacabra. She fears she’s about to fail an assignment-and lose her job-until she meets Tío Jaime, a grandfatherly hermit who might be crazy, or might be the best thing that ever happened to Sandy’s career.

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Houston, We Have a Problema

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing, 2009
ISBN: 1558854061
Order signed copies from Brazos Bookstore

Publisher’s Description:
Jessica Luna is your typical 26 year old: she has man trouble, mom trouble, and not a clue what to do with her life (though everyone else in her family seems to have plenty of suggestions!) After a lifetime of being babied by her family, Jess is incapable of trusting herself to make the right choices. So instead, she bases all of her life decisions on signs. She looks to everything for guidance, from the direction her rearview-mirror-Virgin-de-Guadalupe sways to whatever Madame Hortensia, her psychic, sees in the cards.

When her sort-of boyfriend Guillermo, a gifted unmotivated artist, disappoints her again, Jessica thinks it’s time to call it quits. Just to be sure, she checks in with Madame Hortensia who confirms that yes, it is time for a change. (Who knew $20 could buy so much security!) Right on cue, Jess meets Jonathan; he’s the complete opposite of Guillermo–of all Jess’s boyfriends, in fact. He’s successful, has a stable job….and is white. Jess isn’t sure if Jonathan is really the change Madame Hortensia saw. Sure he gives great career advice, but is he advising her on a career she actually wants? And yes he’s all about commitment, but is it Jess or her mother who really wants marriage?

Jess runs back to Madame Hortensia for advice, but even she is out of answers. Now there’s only one thing that’s certain: no one–not her mother, her sister, her boyfriend or her psychic–can tell her what to do. For better or for worse, Jess will have to take the plunge and make her own decisions if she wants to have any future at all.

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To the Last Man I Slept with and All the Jerks Just Like Him

Publisher: Arte Publico Press, 2004
ISBN: 1558854061

Publisher’s Description:
Weaving her exploration of family life, love, the struggle for economic stability, and the search for a personal creative space, Zepeda’s brash voice cuts at society’s stereotypes, at once critiquing those around her and herself. Family, friends, and the unwitting strangers around her—no one is safe from her commentary.

With dark, knife-in-the ribs humor and poignant glimpses of youth and early adulthood, Gwendolyn Zepeda’s first book is the literati’s version of television variety shows of the 1970s. Chock full of sharp observations in a narrative that jumps from personal essay to a parody of romance novels to inventive fiction, this collection spans a wide range of themes: the complications of being a “half-white child of hippies born in Houston in 1971″ and raised in a largely Mexican barrio . . . “How to Be a Trailer Trash Housewife” . . . and a midnight dance with a giant cockroach.

Though her creations aren’t easy to behold, they are assertive, calling out Zepeda’s own lessons learned as she strives to hammer out a life. She writes in “To the Last Man I Slept with and to Everybody Else,” a variation on the title story, “You wanted to be the rock star, the ninja, the cowboy in black. I wanted to be with those people so I pretended they were you. But secretly, I have always been all of those things.”

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