by Jasmin Flores
Part of LM Voices' Tiny Review series
“I think that many writers and storytellers believe that stories that don’t want to be told—the ones that hurt down in the deep recesses of one’s soul or bring a wave of embarrassment and regret—are the ones that need to be shared.” This line opens the final chapter of Yasmín Ramírez’s debut memoir, ¡Ándale, Prieta! She has chosen to follow this theory and share each story in a collection about unique family dynamics, culture, femininity, and growing up a brown girl with heavy black eyeliner and a book in hand.
In the first of two story parts, we meet Yasmín’s grandmother Ita. Told through the author’s childhood perspective, Ita is rendered as a strong, formidable Mexicana-Americana in a petite, cocktail-dressed frame. The matriarch of Yasmín’s family, Ita is a single mother and grandmother whose eccentricities and tragedies serve as life lessons for her family. Though her love life is ill-fated, Ita finds affection and meaning in her relationship with Yasmín. Ita is there to comfort Yasmín through the real and imagined cuts, even teaching her how to fight against school bullies. Ramírez writes with deep tenderness about her grandmother, speaking about her with the sympathy Ita lacked in life. However, the writer doesn’t avoid Ita’s faults; she writes of her frustrations with her grandmother in a childlike voice that places you right in Ita’s kitchen. Ramírez nimbly bounces between the perspectives of childhood and adulthood with such precision, never taking you too far away from the scene, always staying close to the bone.
Maintaining her deftness for perspective in the second part of the memoir, Ramírez takes center stage and turns the discerning eye upon her teenage self. "Finding Yasmín" navigates through the charged territory of hormones and insecurity by going on that archetypal teenage journey of drugs, booze, and love. Though she often makes messy choices, it is that very messiness that makes Ramírez feel so relatable. This season of waywardness follows Ramírez into adulthood as she moves away for college and later works as a department store lingerie manager. She fills her days with work and drinks, numbing that ache familiar to most twenty-somethings. The party stops when Ita suddenly passes away. Ramírez is forced to confront the pain she had spent the better part of a decade suppressing. Ramírez writes about this time with a fine balance between self-deprecating humor and shameless honesty. She writes about her pain and pleasure in such simple sentences, you get lost in the prose. Her hurt becomes your own, you savor the sweetness of successes like the bubbling suds of a beer shared with friends. Don’t be surprised to find tears of sadness and joy rolling down your cheeks as you read.
¡Ándale, Prieta! is one of those memoirs that beautifully bridges generations, inviting us to find bits and pieces of ourselves in its pages. It is the story of one woman that echoes the stories of all women, especially those who are bien prieta.
Jasmin Flores is a Chicana writer from El Paso, Texas. Her work includes short stories, poetry, book reviews, and essays, which have been published by ForWord: A BorderSenses Literary Project and Las Latinitas magazine.