Famed Mexican-American author Dagoberto Gilb starts UHV professorship

Dagoberto Gilb

Acclaimed author of seven books Dagoberto Gilb has joined the faculty of the University of Houston-Victoria as a writer-in-residence and professor of Latino studies.

 Gilb also will work on university initiatives aimed to promote and engage the Mexican-American community.

“I feel like the world is opening up to Mexican Americans, and I’m excited it’s beginning here in Victoria, long known as a cultural crossroads,” Gilb said.

Gilb, whose work has appeared in national magazines such as The New Yorker and Harper’s, has been widely anthologized in college textbooks. He is considered a premier American writer whose work explores the lives of Mexican-American people.

“I am honored to have an author as esteemed as Dagoberto Gilb join the faculty,” UHV President Tim Hudson said. “He’s a terrific writer and one of the most engaging and interesting people you’ll ever meet. I know our students and community members will learn so much from him.”

Gilb has been honored with many state and national prizes, including the James D. Phelan Award (1984), Dobie-Paisano Fellowship (1987), National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship (1992), Whiting Writer’s Award (1993), El Paso Writers’ Hall of Fame (1995), Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship (1995) and Bookend Award from the Texas Book Festival (2007).

His first full book of stories, “The Magic of Blood,” which was published by the University of New Mexico Press, won numerous awards, including the prestigious 1994 PEN/Hemingway Foundation Award, a national prize given to an author who has not previously published a book of fiction, and the Jesse Jones Texas Institute of Letters Award. The book also was a PEN Faulkner finalist.

Gilb was in Victoria in September of 2007 as part of the UHV/American Book Review Reading Series, which features authors who come to the university and attend roundtable discussions, make classroom visits to area schools and give community lectures.

“Professor Gilb is one of a handful of writers in America who have changed the way we view Mexican-American writing,” said Jeffrey Di Leo, editor and publisher of the American Book Review and dean of the UHV School of Arts & Sciences. “I’m looking forward to him leading our efforts to promote Mexican-American literature and culture.”

Gilb’s others books, all published in New York by Grove Press, include “The Last Known Residence of Mickey Acuña,” a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, and “Woodcuts of Women,” perhaps his most popular book. His 2003 collection of nonfiction essays, “Gritos,” was a finalist for the National Book Critics’ Circle Award. In 2006, the University of New Mexico Press published “Hecho En Tejas,” which won the PEN Southwest Book Award and is now considered the canonical work of record for Mexican-American literature in Texas.

Reviews in the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times and numerous others praised his most recent novel, “The Flowers.” The San Francisco Chronicle named it one of the best books of 2008.

“I’m proud to be part of a university that is ahead of the curve,” Gilb said. “UHV sees the past and wants to help shape the future.”

Gilb also has worked on movies and documentaries, and spent several years writing commentaries that aired on the National Public Radio show “Fresh Air.” In 1997, he accepted a job teaching in the prestigious Master of Fine Arts program at Southwest Texas State University, now Texas State University.

Gilb was born in Los Angeles. He attended the University of California, Santa Barbara, where he earned both bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Before his emergence as a writer, Gilb worked in high-rise construction and became a journeyman carpenter in the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners in Los Angeles.

The University of Houston-Victoria, located in the heart of the Coastal Bend region since 1973 in Victoria, Texas, offers courses leading to more than 80 academic programs in the schools of Arts & Sciences; Business Administration; and Education, Health Professions & Human Development. UHV provides face-to-face classes at its Victoria campus, as well as an instructional site in Katy, Texas, and online classes that students can take from anywhere. UHV supports the American Association of State Colleges and Universities Opportunities for All initiative to increase awareness about state colleges and universities and the important role they have in providing a high-quality and accessible education to an increasingly diverse student population, as well as contributing to regional and state economic development.

Paula Cobler