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Classical 91.7-Arte Público Press Author of the Month: Gwendolyn Zepeda

Author Gwendolyn Zepeda has been selected as this month’s Classical 91.7/Arte Público Press Author of the Month. In the next installment of a series of monthly features, Classical 91.7’s Eric Ladau spoke with Ms. Zepeda.


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Gwendolyn Zepeda was born in 1971 to a Chicano father and German/Welsh/Scottish mother. When she was four, her mother was diagnosed with schizophrenia and institutionalized, leaving Zepeda to grow up with her father’s extended family in the barrio that was Houston’s Sixth Ward.

Although she was often rejected by her peers because of her fair skin, Zepeda gained a deep appreciation of her Mexican heritage from her father’s family and from the other families in the community. While watching brothers and cousins fall prey to the traps of inner-city poverty, she managed to resist drugs and crime by funneling her pain into art. She sang in neighborhood groups and studied drawing for a short stint at the High School for the Performing and Visual Arts. MECA, a Houston-based arts organization for at-risk youth, encouraged Zepeda to apply to the University of Texas, where she was awarded a full scholarship.

Zepeda might have been the first person in her family to earn a bachelor’s degree, had she not dropped out in order to begin raising an impromptu family. Suddenly finding herself a housewife in an isolated corner of the Texas Hill Country, Zepeda desperately reached out to others through the Internet. She taught herself HTML and created her own Web site,, which won her recognition and freelance writing jobs for other sites, such as the acclaimed This success led Zepeda to believe that, despite her atypical start and everything she had been told to the contrary, she could succeed as a “real” writer.

Zepeda was awarded the Cultural Arts Council of Houston/Harris County’s Individual Artist Grant for her literary pursuits in 2004. She won the Diarist.Net Legacy Award for her online journal/blog in 2003. She is the creator of The Quinceañera You Were Too Poor to Have, a literary event for artists fueled by deprivation.

On Thursday, May 15 at 10:00 AM, Zepeda will read from her new bilingual picture book Growing Up with Tamales / Los tamales de Ana (Piñata Books, 2008), during “Storytime” at the Blue Willow Bookshop, 14532 Memorial Drive at Dairy Ashford in Houston, TX. For more information, call 713.743.2999 (Arte Público Press) or 281.497.8675 (Blue Willow) or visit

Arte Público Press is the nation’s largest and most established publisher of contemporary and recovered literature by U.S. Hispanic authors.  For more information, please visit our website at

In the next installment of a series of monthly features, Classical 91.7’s Eric Ladau spoke with Ms. Zepeda about her works.