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Author reads from memoir, inspires others to follow suit (w/video)

By Carolina Astrain
April 24, 2014 at 6:04 p.m.
Updated April 24, 2014 at 11:25 p.m.

Memoirist Domingo Martinez takes questions from the audience at the University of Houston-Victoria's American Book Review Reading Series on Thursday.  See video of Martinez sharing his works at VictoriaAdvocate.com.

Domingo Martinez stood before a packed room at the University of Houston-Victoria dressed in black pants, shirt and blazer.

The author smiled as his audience burst into laughter during a reading from his book, "The Boy Kings of Texas: A Memoir."

Martinez, 42, was the guest author at the university's American Book Review Reading Series on Thursday afternoon.

"The first story I'm going to read is about my grandfather. I called it 'Oklahoma,' like the Rodgers and Hammerstein play," Martinez said. "Except I use an upside exclamation mark."

Martinez's book, "The Boy Kings of Texas: A Memoir," was a finalist for the National Book Award in 2012 - an impressive feat for an author's premiere publication, said A.J. Ortega, UHV lecturer of English.

"As a young writer and as a Texan, it is my pleasure to introduce you to Domingo Martinez," Ortega said. "It's inspiring to hear from someone that looks like you and comes from a similar working-class background."

Martinez spent much of his childhood growing up in Brownsville, where he grappled with the machismo part of his Mexican-American background.

After working at a South Padre Island newspaper, Martinez moved to Seattle, where he now lives and works as a memoirist. He is also developing an HBO TV series screenplay based on his first memoir.

Salma Hayek and Jerry Weintraub are the executive producers on the project, which has been optioned by HBO.

"It is quite rare that the author of the original work be asked to write the screenplay," Martinez said.

His second memoir, which he recently completed, "My Heart is a Drunken Compass: A Memoir," is set for a November release.

Martinez also read an excerpt from his new book Thursday.

Mark Ward, UHV assistant professor of communication, asked Martinez how he went from spending 20 years writing his first memoir to a tighter deadline for his second.

"It was difficult to do," Martinez said. "For the first book, I would go and sulk at a bar and wrote in longhand in little notebooks with my earbuds in."

Working closer with an editor for his second memoir "lit a fire under me," the author said.

During the question-and-answer, William Zermeno, of Goliad, applauded the author for protesting the illustration the Victoria Advocate used in the advance story about his appearance.

The conceptual image was of Martinez dressed as a mariachi to embody his struggle with machismo depicted in his book, which the author found offensive.

"I'm glad that you brought it up as an issue," Zermeno, 86, said. "The local newspaper is famous for doing those sorts of things."

The Advocate issued Martinez an apology and took the image down from its website as soon as it received the author's complaint.

"I had a level of compassion for them because it was somebody's idea that became distorted in the process," Martinez said. "It was like being at a party where someone said a joke offending someone unintentionally - that's how I took it."

Estella Martinez-Zermeno, of Goliad, said memoir-writing is important for the future generations of a family.

"We need to get away from the idea of machismo, for one thing," said Martinez-Zermeno, 82, who is working on a memoir of her life.

"A lot of the macho men have disappeared, but the idea is still there."

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