El Paso author and college English instructor Yasmín Ramírez didn’t begin writing with the intention of publishing her first book.
“I started writing as a way to grieve her, then it became a way to hold on to her,” Ramírez said about jotting down stories to cope with the death of her grandmother, Ita.
What resulted was a memoir, “¡Ándale, Prieta! A Love Letter to My Family,” about family, love, and finding oneself. But the exercise also gave Ramírez a deeper appreciation for the nickname her grandmother gave her: Prieta, often a term of endearment meaning dark skinned.
The book title was suggested by Lee Byrd, co-owner of the former Cinco Puntos Press, the local independent publication house that published her book. Byrd noted a common phrase in the book, “¡ándale, prieta!” or, “come on, prieta,” which Ita often said to Ramírez.
When the book came out, Ramírez received “countless messages from fellow prietas, negras and morenas who shared the nickname and a fondness for it even if they felt conflicted about it growing up.”
Written in English and heavily sprinkled with Spanish and Spanglish, the book captures the bond between her and her grandmother and includes a few recipes from Ita, who Ramírez said expressed her love through her cooking.
“¡Ándale, Prieta!” is the latest selection of the El Paso Matters Book Club, which asked Ramírez to tell readers about herself, her book and what’s next. This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.
For those who aren’t as familiar with you, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?