I Summer in Yankee by Nia Andino
Updated: Mar 17
This lush prose poem set in the Caribbean describes a summer where a little girl turning eight feels out of place in the place of her roots. Andino gives us rich snapshot scenes and emotions, with themes of place and the experience of being FROM two places but lacking a sense of belonging to either.
Nia Andino is a NY-born visual artist, poet, and ancestral researcher inspired by Sankofa to pay homage to the beauty and strength of her Afro-Boricua, USVI, and African American roots. Nia has been featured as a poet at the Nuyorican Poets Café, Queens Lit Fest, and for the Capicu Cultural Contingency of the National Puerto Rican Day Parade. Her writing has been published in Moko Magazine, Anomaly, The Abuela Stories Project, Mujeres, The Magic, The Movement, and The Muse, Latinas: Protests and Struggles in the 21st Century USA, the USVI anthology Beyond the Long Lines, and What They Leave Behind. She's displayed her work at the New York Port Authority, the New York Botanical Gardens for the Frida Kahlo exhibit, the International House for the art opening of the Nina Simone documentary The Amazing Nina Simone, and the Defend Puerto Rico: CitiCien traveling exhibit. Nia has created the book cover art for In Defense of Glitter and Rainbows, Mujeres, The Magic, The Movement, The Muse, and What They Leave Behind. You can find her work at https://www.andinostyles.com
Fried Eggs & Rice Writing Prompt: Nia’s piece has six numbered sections, each one depicting a different scene/emotion of the same summer in richly described images and sensory details. Think about a summer/holiday/vacation/day that was significant to you. Break down this event in six pieces, making sure to focus on emotion and creating movement in your piece by moving from one space/scene/emotion to the next per section. Make sure to add tons of sensory detail and imagery in your first draft. Remember... anything that doesn’t work or seems redundant can always be edited out in revisions.
RECIPE POSTED AFTER THE PIECE!
I Summer In Yankee
By Nia Andino
1. The official sound of summer holiday was the clink of dulces sliding down a vending case. Blocks of sticky sesame seeds fell softer than my sweet, cherished, red pilones. I gripped seven lollipop stems with my grandfather's promise to venture beyond Marin's tarmac. Green ribbons hugged candy wrappers too tight for my eight-year-old fingers to unravel. Somehow, the ajonjoli met the black sugar in a holy gap between my teeth. I clutched a carry-on of besitos de coco for my mother to savor when I returned to her a year older at the end of summer. Gramps told me the layover is too short to embrace this side of me. Once again, my last name would have to move through a stretch of Boriken without feet, waiting at a door in Rio Piedras where my bisabuela stirred a pot of gandules I would never taste.
2. Each time, the traveling air hit me salted for not knowing to clap as we landed. Gramps descended the rolling stairs to then ascend the hills that grew him. Taxi minded the curved roads up to Mandahl where our house stood rival to the sun; a faded yellow glistening at high noon. Gramps patted the roughness of what he built, brushed off the dross of Hugo and Marilyn. We smiled at the Yankees he rented it to for the rest of the year. They paid more than the locals did to look down from the skying mound. Seeking shade under what Nana planted, their hats mimicked the umbrella of papaya trees while their bare toes carelessly swung through her Purple Jerusalems.
3. The road from country to town was peppered with carts. An older woman who shielded her hair with headscarf enticed me with specials, cups of condensed milk mingled with iced crushed cherries. There was no Mister Softee serenading my ear, no syrup disguised as real fruit. My eyes still hungered for a sandwich of long beef with ketchup nestled between bread. The next cart, we took the only meal they offered. My mouth accepted the fried dough and abandoned the fish to grease up my grandfather’s fingers. I trusted my tongue when it told me how more familiar carts pushed lies of hearty convenience on young stomachs back on the mainland.
4. We stopped at Pueblo to fill our fridge. Cases of Malta India, milk, and box cereal with prizes were grasped by more brown hands than I'd ever seen in the Queens Western Beef. No one watched us here. Their skin was smooth, shiny, and kissed by the sun while the mosquitoes sucked on my foreignness, marking me with lingering bites of summer to reflect on in a month. The end of August would find me different. I returned home with a creole English creeping out of my jaw and the neighborhood kids exclaiming, “I didn't know you could get any darker.” Back in Queens, I would begin to notice the Asian women eyeing all of our Black and brown fingers a little more as we shop for cornmeal in an effort to fulfill my newfound love for fungi.
5. Five days into August, Aunt Ethlyn swung open her screen door, chupeing me with her teeth for letting the no-see-ums in. My face was a political one walking through her home. My stillness was being respectful of the contents of cabinets I had no memory of. She took this as Yankee mannerisms sitting at her table while she baked my birthday from scratch. My body, a flag only she could see. Striped shirt matched the strips of dough she placed over pans of jellied pineapple and shredded coconut. It was my first introduction to the flavors of tart wars that still waged across these four islands. Small hands stacked six layers in the Vienna cake to count the times someone had claimed this island as theirs besides America. She paused to spread guava paste between each stack. Long enough to be thankful for something native to insert itself amongst Danish butter and American milk. This was how my aunt told me she loved me. Challenging my tongue over how this cake dissolved in my mouth without the ice cream and chocolate crumbles that usually emerged from the freezer box back home.
6. At dusk, my cousins scuttled winded palm trees to zinc roof, rubber-arming its weighty mangos. They tossed me ripe kidney fruit as I played with a gentle sinking sun. Hot metal tamed their naked feet to the softness of thieves. We sat on soft, green blades casting out the smell of distress bent by our weight. Latty ripped verdant skin from pulp through sly grin and hand cupped. Wil turned an air pocket to fruit pouch and sucked clingy juice beyond his cheeks. Between slurps, he proclaimed he was moving to Disneyland to live with his father. Hoping to trade the American sands of the Rock for Golden ones between his toes. I looked towards the porch door, my eyes begging for a knife. Wishing to carve more of the Yankee out of me. At least enough to match the weight of this mango pit.
1/2 lb of butter
1/2 lb of sugar
1 tbsp of vanilla extract
1 tbsp of almond extract
2 1/2 cups of flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 cups of milk
1/4 tsp grated lime
3 layer cake pans
Rum or whiskey
Mix butter and sugar until lemon colored and add eggs; beat; add vanilla and almond extracts.
Add flour that has been sifted 2 or 3 times, baking powder and lime. Beat all air bubbles out of cake batter.
Heat oven to 300 degrees. Grease layer cake pans and dust with flour. Pour batter into pans and bake for 20 minutes.
Remove from oven when baked and let cool. When cooled, split layers into 2. Brush each layer with rum or whiskey.
Alternate jams or preserves to your liking between layers. You should now have 6 layers stacked and ready to be frosted. Suggested Filling for Between Layer: Blackberry jam, Pineapple or strawberry preserves, Guava.
Use butter frosting or egg whites with a touch of lemon juice to frost the cake.