¡ÁNDALE PRIETA! A Love Letter to My Family
Lee & Low Books: Cinco Puntos Press Imprint
Tell us about your book.
Anchored by Ita, a resilient matriarch who was far from the stereotypical Abuelita and 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 a taxing retail job, and turning to bars for comfort, the blow of her grandmother’s death pushes Yasmín to unravel. She returns 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. She remembers coming along with her to watch boxing matches at a dive bar as a child, Ita wistfully singing old Mexican classics and her mastectomy scar. 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. With her honesty in self-reflection about periods where she felt directionless and her vivid depictions of a mother and grandmother, Ramírez offers vulnerable solidarity to readers who’ve had hard knocks of their own.
What inspired you to write this book?
Writing this book, began as one long (and scattered!) short story. It slowly grew from there. 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. ¡Ándale, Prieta! at its core is about family, love, and forgiveness. I didn’t set out to write a memoir. The story just needed to be told.
Is there anything socially/economically significant about the overall message of your book?
Aside from the focus on my family, ¡Ándale, Prieta! addresses what it’s like to be a Mexican American girl, and later a woman, in the United States. Growing up on the U.S./Mexico border of El Paso, TX and Ciudad Juárez, MX is a unique experience. El Paso is a clear blending of cultures where Spanish is frequently heard and delicious Mexican food can be easily found. Its people often go back and forth across the international bridges on a daily basis, and it conveys an accurate picture of one of the largest international borders. The book highlights this Borderplex area, what it’s like to live between two cultures, and builds upon the rich storytelling tradition of Latinx writers.
What’s next for you as an author?
I want to celebrate the release of ¡Ándale, Prieta! (April 19, 2022). I’m beyond excited to share it with readers. I want to take a break from memoir writing, though! As much as I loved the experience, this girl needs a break from self-reflecting! I’m working on completing a fiction manuscript, also based in El Paso, about a girl named Lola Coca Cola who wants to be a rock star.
¡ÁNDALE, PRIETA! Excerpt
I SPENT FIVE years selling lingerie at Nordstrom in the elite Highland Park neighborhood of Dallas. Though that season of my life is peppered with countless memories, I don’t really remember the very first time I helped a woman find the correct size prosthesis for her bra. But I’ve never forgotten the conversations I had with these women before we began each fitting—almost always the same.
Every time I stepped into the black-and-white paisley-printed fitting room to help them, they’d ask right away, “Can’t your manager help me?”
“I am the manager,” I’d reply. Pinched eyebrows, pursed lips.
I was in my mid-twenties, a baby in the eyes of most fifty-year-old women. What did I know about the scars that marked their bodies?
They hesitated to take their blouses off.
“Please sit down,” I would invite them. “My grandmother had breast cancer,” I would begin. “I grew up watching her adjust her prosthesis in mastectomy bras. I know what the scars look like. It won’t shock me. I just want to make sure you’re comfortable. If at any point, you’re not, I can step out. Or we can stop.”
They’d relax. And when they took off their blouses and allowed me to see the pink scars on their chests, I didn’t blink. We talked about Ita as I measured across and around their naked torsos.
“How old was she when she got cancer?”
“Forty. I wasn’t born yet, but my mom told me about it—how she changed after.”
“Was it bilateral or unilateral?”
I’d slip a robe around them so they wouldn’t have to sit in the fitting room facing the mirror naked from the waist up when I stepped out to get the flesh-colored prosthesis and mastectomy bras.
They made me think of war veterans. Where did you serve? What unit? But instead, Was it one breast or two?
Ita had a jagged scar because it had happened long ago when surgeries weren’t so sophisticated. I told them about the special bra shop, Margie’s, in downtown El Paso where I watched a woman fit Ita while I sat on the fitting room floor holding her purse. She always complained about the ugliness of the bras. They nodded, understanding, as I lined the fitting room with various nude bras they would never find at Victoria’s Secret.
“You don’t have t-shirt bras?”
The smooth molded cups would do nothing for them. “No. The seams in each of the bras give shape to both your real breast and the prosthesis. The seams even things out, and they’ll only show a little bit under snug t-shirts.”
“There should be prettier lingerie for breast cancer survivors,” I’d say.
“Your grandma must be glad she has you to fit her.”
The women would leave with a bag full of silicone or gel prostheses and nude bras with pockets to hold their new breasts in place. They would thank me. Some of them even hugged me.
I didn’t tell them I never got a chance to fit Ita.
Contact Yasmín Ramírez at the following links: