By Yasmín Ramírez
When I tell people who don't speak Spanish what prieta means--dark or the dark one--their eyes pop open and a small gasp escapes . . . How do I tell them that now, even after the cruelty of children, Prieta means love? That each time Prieta fell from Ita's lips, I learned to love my dark skin.
No one calls me that anymore. I miss how her words sounded out loud.
My Ita called me Prieta. When she died, she took the name with her.
Anchored by the tough grandmother who taught her how to stand firm and throw a punch, debut author Yasmín Ramírez writes about the punches life's thrown her non-traditional family of tough Mexican American women.
Having spent years of her twenties feeling lost--working an intensely taxing retail job and turning to bars for comfort--the blow of her grandmother's death pushes Yasmín to unravel. So she comes home to El Paso, Texas, where people know how to spell her accented name and her mother helps her figure out what to do with her life. Once she finally starts pursuing her passion for writing, Yasmín finds herself processing her grief by painting a portrait of her Ita, a resilient matriarch who was far from being a stereotypical abuelita. She remembers coming along to watch boxing matches at a dive bar as a child, Ita wistfully singing old Mexican classics, her mastectomy scar, and of course, her lesson on how to properly ball your fist for a good punch. Interviewing her mom and older sister, Yasmín learns even more about why her Ita was so tough--the abusive men, the toil of almost-literally back-breaking jobs, and the guilt of abortions that went against her culture.
Expertly blending the lyrical prose of a gifted author with the down-to-earth, conversational remarks of a close friend, this debut memoir marks Ramírez as a talented new author to watch. Her honesty in self-reflection, especially about periods where she felt directionless, and her vivid depictions of a mother and grandmother that persevered through a lot of hard knocks, offers vulnerable solidarity to readers who've had hard knocks of their own.
Click here to listen to the ¡Ándale, Prieta! playlist curated by author Yasmín Ramírez!
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About the Creators
Yasmín Ramírez is a 2021 Martha's Vineyard Institute of Creative Writing Author Fellow as well as a 2020 recipient of the Woody and Gayle Hunt-Aspen Institute Fellowship Award. Her fiction and creative nonfiction works have appeared in Cream City Review and Huizache among others. She is an Assistant Professor of English, Creative Writing, and Chicanx Literature at El Paso Community College. She stays active in the Borderplex arts community and serves on the advisory board of BorderSenses, a literary non-profit. ¡Ándale, Prieta! is her first book. For more information about Yasmín, visit her website at yasminramirez.com.