Friday, June 20, 2014

Chica-no/Chica-si

When one first begins to write, at least for me, I didn't have a sense of where the writing was going, who my audience was, and if there was a greater message of my culture, and I suppose more importantly where do I, Yasmin Ramirez fit into the literary landscape.

I first started writing fiction. Short stories. I just wanted to write and I wanted it to be good. My first pieces fell toward a film noir surreal genre. Had a read any of surrealist? No. Were they good? I'm afraid to look. Later when working on my MFA I found I didn't know what to write about. I was finally simply supposed to write and my mind drew a blank, so I began to write what I knew. Stories I told many times over and made people laugh over the dinner table and now seemed to be working on paper and in workshops. These stories about my grandma, Ita, and being raised in El Paso became my thesis and now the book I'm attempting to finish by the end of this summer.

Now, as I've published several (12 to be exact) of the pieces from my memoir focused on my Ita, I've stumbled across things I had not thought about. For example,

Who is my audience?
Is there too much Spanish for English readers?
Am I a Chicana writer? Will I always be a Chicana writer?
Am I automatically a Chicana because my last name is Ramirez?
Does it matter that I don't like the word Chicana and finds it leaves my mouth in a cacophony of angles and hard syllabus? How do I explain I was just trying to write my stories and I don't want to be spokesperson for all Latinos if I believe all Latino experiences are different? How do I explain that I read many different things and the brown section on my shelf is a bit skimpy? And how do I explain I don't identify with much of the brown books I've read? If I'm not brown enough will I be shunned by brown writers?  Will my last name and the fact that I love tacos and don't pronounce it tah-cos always make me too brown for general readers? How do I explain I am not denying a heritage if I don't have a tangible link to the "motherland"? How...Does...Am I...Where...Brown...White...Labels...Categories...How...

The list of questions goes on. I find that as I finish the pages of my childhood and of my Ita, thinking of these things begins to tarnish my memories/stories. I began them not only as a way to heal but because in someways they are universal. I wanted to share my love I suppose. Perhaps that is idealistic. Perhaps I'm full of shit. But, as half of my work is done--the writing of the book--and I approach the second half--marketing my book, myself--I'm beginning to reconsider which part is more difficult.

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