Saturday, February 7, 2009

"Houston, We Have a Problema"

Gwendolyn Zepeda is the author of a short-story collection called To the Last Man I Slept with and All the Jerks Just Like Him and the children’s book, Growing Up with Tamales, a 2009 Charlotte Zolotow Award Highly Commended Title.

applied the Page 69 Test to Houston, We Have a Problema, her first novel, and reported the following:
Page 69 of Houston, We Have a Problema begins with the protagonist, Jessica Luna, starting a half-hearted argument with her sister about said sister’s failure to live up to their family’s stereotype of womanhood.

“You didn’t have time? It’s not like you have a job,” said Jessica. Sabrina had quit her receptionist gig at Halronburco a year ago. “Shoot, Mami works hard all day, then throws a big barbecue and sends everybody home with leftovers. What’s your excuse?”

Her sister points out that Jessica is no paragon of barbecue virtue, herself – a point our protagonist must concede.

The rest of the page shows us Jessica being bored with her sister’s friends’ conversation about property taxes. Then, she reflects on the fact that her sister used to be her idol. But Jessica no longer aspires to a spiral perm and a “glamorous” executive assistant job.

I was disappointed that my Page 69 didn’t feature any especially funny lines, or even a thwarted sex scene. But I was pleasantly surprised that it touched on what, to me, is the hidden heart of the book.

I wanted to write “women’s contemporary fiction” and am unabashedly proud of having met all the criteria for that genre. At the same time, I’ve always been interested in inter-cultural relationships and the various methods in which people attempt to cross socio-economic class lines. I wanted to have Jessica think about those topics, but in the way that most people do on a daily basis, and not while using phrases like “socio-economic class.”

So I like that my Page 69 indicates what was on my mind. Hopefully, people interested in those topics will be encouraged by that page to check out my book. As for people who aren’t interested in those topics, they can skip to Page 71 and check out the thwarted sex scene.
Read an excerpt from Houston, We Have a Problema, and learn more about the book and author at Gwendolyn Zepeda's website.

Check out the complete list of books in the Page 69 Test Series.

--Marshal Zeringue