On Family, Love, and Forgiveness
with Yasmín Ramírez, author of '¡Ándale, Prieta!: A Love Letter to My Family'
#NuevasPaginasconLupita is a space that is both an archive and resource aimed to "spotlight" Hispanic/Latinx/e authors with newly published books. The goal is to connect readers to new and/or old favorite Hispanic/Latinx/e authors and their books! So give this & every post a share to help us reach more readers!
How does it work?!
Here’s the deal, I came up with a set of casual/random/funny questions to ask each Hispanic/Latinx/e author, I interview. For now, the questions will all be the same but maybe in the future I’ll launch this into more specific questions to the author or maybe I’ll turn this series into a mini-podcast, or maybe……well, you get it! The possibilities are endless.
If you are new here don’t forget to check out all the other amazing interviews! We also have a great line-up of guest authors coming up so make sure you don’t miss an issue by subscribing now!
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Hey Heyyy Book Franz!
Happy Nueva Paginas Day! If anyone ever asked me to describe myself with a single book title, I would definitely pick the book title from today’s special guest. There are so many reasons why but mainly because it invokes memories of my family and culture.
Before we jump into today’s interview I wanted to gently remind you I have one final in-person bookish event coming up that I’d love to have you attend if you are able. It’s with an author that appeared here in Nuevas Paginas a few weeks ago - Reyna Grande! I am including details below for anyone that wants to sign up or share the event with a friend that lives in Maryland!
Monday, May 23rd at the Hyattsville Branch Library at 6:30 PM ET - In-person author event & book signing with Reyna Grande author of A Ballad of Love and Glory hosted by @pgcmls! The title and author might sound familiar to you because she was previously featured here in Nuevas Paginas. Register to attend here.
Without further ado, our special guest author today is….Yasmín Ramírez, author of ¡Ándale, Prieta!: A Love Letter to My Family!!
Could you tell me a bit about where this photo was taken? Is it special to your book in some way?
The photo was taken on the steps of my high school, El Paso High. It's the oldest school in the city, built-in 1916, known as the Our Lady on the Hill. I went to high school there, as did my mother, uncle, and sister. La High, as it's called by locals, is featured in my debut memoir, ¡Ándale, Prieta!, as is my family.
Tell me about your book without telling me about your book - share any literary inspirations behind your book! If there are none, the gap you wanted to fill in the literary canon with your book.
¡Ándale, Prieta! at its core is about family, love, and forgiveness. It started as a way to share my grandmother, Ita, with others and keep her alive somehow. Writing the book helped me grieve her loss. It helped me know her and my family in new and different ways, and it helped me find myself.
The more I wrote, the more I found I was also writing for people like me, who have clear cultural roots (growing up in the El Paso, TX/Juárez, MX Borderplex does an excellent job of that) but whose family settled in the area generations ago. Even though we haven't had family in Mexico for a long time, I am Latina. Through things like music, food, and the sights and sounds of the Borderplex, the roots have remained strong.
What are two central themes in your book that you connect with the most and why?
Two central themes are the love and special relationship with my Abuelita, Ita, and the other is coming of age. Sometimes you have to leave home to find your way back, and in some ways, even after she was gone, Ita brought me home.
If a book was home, where would your home be?
That one's easy! Home is in El Paso. It's nestled in the curve of the Franklin Mountains, in the prickly desert cactus, and resilient landscape of the frontera. El Paso is a celebration of living between two cultures, and the book couldn't behome anywhere else.
If your book was a famous musician who would it be?
There is music all over the book. I don't think I can just pick one musician. Ay, can Juan Gabriel and Kurt Cobain have a baby?
Okay, if I had to pick, I think I would go with Mexican Institute of Sound (M.I.S.). The music project by Camilo Lara relies on classic Mexican music samples and mixes them with modern beats. The book would be M.I.S. because it embraces tradition but mixes in its own scratches and beats.
What comfort food could a reader pair with your book?
Tacos! Specifically tacos dorados de carne y papa and a spicy salsa de chile de árbol.
In what ways has access (or little to no access) to Hispanic/Latinx/e literature defined you as a writer?
I read Dagoberto Gilb's Gritos when I was in college, and it was the first time I read a Latinx author. You would think I would have been exposed earlier, but I wasn't. I didn't know people like me wrote books.
I'm not sure why, but I didn't read more Latinx literature until I was in my bilingual MFA program at the University of Texas at El Paso. There, I was exposed to many more authors! It was also where one of the professors likened one of my short stories to Sandra Cisneros. (It's now a chapter in ¡Ándale, Prieta!). I had never read her. (Saying that now sounds crazy!) I bought House on Mango Street and soon after realized the depth of that compliment. I knew then we all carried these beautiful stories of abuelitos, y comida, and family wrapped in us.
These experiences defined me as a writer by highlighting the importance of writing my stories and following down the path paved by trailblazing Latinx writers. It showed me the importance of celebrating and advocating for our stories.
Where can readers keep up with your work?
A huge thank you to Yasmín Ramírez for taking the time to chat with me about her book! Please please make sure you purchase a copy (or request your local library carry a copy) of their book #SupportLatinxLit!
Author Bio from her website:
Yasmín Ramírez is a 2021 Martha's Institute of Creative Writing Author Fellow as well as a 2020 recipient of the Woody and Gayle Hunt-Aspen Institute Fellowship Award. Her fiction/CNF 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. Her memoir ¡Ándale, Prieta!, by Lee and Low Books, is now available.
Synopsis for ¡Ándale, Prieta! Bookshop website:
This beautifully open coming-of-age memoir by a Mexican American debut writer doubles as a love letter to the tough grandmother who raised her.
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 my grandmother'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 has thrown at 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 processes her grief by telling the story of her Ita, a resilient matriarch who was far from the stereotypical domestic abuelita. Yasmín remembers watching boxing matches at a dive bar with her grandmother, 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-earthtone 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 who persevered through hard knocks, offers vulnerable solidarity to readers who've had hard knocks of their own.
The best way you can support Latinx/e authors and Latinx/e literature is by doing the following:
REQUEST that your local library carry a copy
PURCHASE a copy of a friend, family member, or your nemesis (hey! I’m sure they read too).
SHOUT about the book on any social media platform or to your friends and family!
SHARE this interview widely! Word of mouth does wonders for connecting readers to books.
REVIEW their books on any website that sells books!
The other day one of my cousins asked in our family group chat….” Hey! What kind of music does Lupita listen to?” and without even missing a beat my brother replied “AUDIOBOOKS”!
The moment audiobooks stepped into my life, they became my music. I listen to them on walks, while doing laundry and chores — basically any moment I have to myself. So if that is you too (or if you simply want to fit in more reading during your daily life) check out Libro.FM! If you use the code LupitaReads you’ll receive two audiobook credits for 14.99 USD with your first month of membership. These credits can be used on your choice of more than 250,00 audiobooks on Libro. FM.
And if you need some audiobook recommendations - I made a list just for you!