Book Notification

Claire Jimenez Books In Order

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Publication Order of Standalone Novels

What Happened to Ruthy Ramirez (2023)Description / Buy at Amazon

Publication Order of Short Stories/Novellas

Publication Order of Collections

Staten Island Stories (2019)Description / Buy at Amazon

Claire Jimenez is a literary fiction Puerto Rican born writer. She spent her childhood years between Brooklyn and Staten Island, New York. Her short stories collection Staten Island won Hornblower Award in 2019 for the first book. Jimenez has a master’s of fine arts from Vanderbilt University and pursued her PhD in English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Additionally, she was a research fellow at Hunter College and won a Mellon Foundation grant from the U.S Latino Digital Humanities Program at the University of Houston in 2020. Jimenez’s debut novel What Happened to Ruthy Ramirez, published in 2023, is a touching story of sisterhood and family. This relationship can only be depicted as imperfect and messy but suffused with love. The book was originally a short story the author began writing ten years before its publication. It was inspired by loss, the violence of migration, identity and family. Claire Jimenez was so much into reality TV that this set off her novel’s premise with one big question: what if you could recognize someone from your past on television? Someone, you thought you had lost forever?

According to, 1997 was the peak of the number of missing persons in the United States, with more than 980,000 people reported missing. Over the years, the number of active missing persons has steadily dropped, with only 543,018 cases reported in 2021. This decline largely can be attributed to advancements in connectivity and communication, with phones and handheld GPS devices making it easier to track missing person’s whereabouts. Even though this decline is something that we should all celebrate, most of these cases are never solved, and they go cold.

What Happened to Ruthy Ramirez is a true family portrait in all its shattered reality, examining the family bonds between women and the cycles of colonialism, violence, silence, and race filled with resentment, snark, tenderness and love. The Ramirez family never fully recovered from the otherwise ordinary afternoon 12 years back when their daughter Ruthy, who was 13 years old, left track practice after a disagreement with a friend and never made it home. Her disappearance remains unsolved after more than a decade, and it remains to have devastating ramifications for her family. Five years after the disappearance, Ruthy’s father died, and her mother, Dolores, dealt with the loss by overeating and having conflicting ideas about her surviving daughters’ lives. After years of being her mother’s major sounding board, Jessica is tired, particularly given that she has a newborn baby and a demanding job at a hospital. Therefore, when Nina comes to Staten Island after college, disheartened by the number of med-school rejections, Jessica announces that it is Nina’s turn to bear the burden. In contrast to her envisioned future, Nina obtains a job sorting small bejewelled thongs at a bargain lingerie store in the local mall.

One night, the sleep-deprived Jessica taking care of her baby and watching a reality show, “Catfight”, discovers that one of the contestants, Ruby, closely resembles her younger sister, who vanished over ten years ago. The sisters can’t resist the urge to head to Boston, where the reality tv show films and find out whether the reality tv star is their long-lost sister. The narrative alternates between the past and the present in chapters written from the perspectives of Nina, Jess, Dolores, and the missing Ruthy. It reads better as a composite of the numerous ways this family’s members are still dealing with their shared loss and suffering and with certain secrets that only they can see. In their intertwining narrative, the characters convey tales of generational, language, cultural differences, loyalty and deceit, and of the ways that violence is both propagated and concealed.

Upon publication, What Happened to Ruthy Ramirez received positive reviews, with critics terming it as “stunning,” “brilliant,” and a “knockout” debut novel, especially for its true depiction of the loving Ramirez family. There’s Dolores, a widow who has resorted to religion to cope with the anguish she suffers for her missing daughter, Ruthy, who vanished as a teen in the 1990s; Nina, a failing college student who’s eager to pick a fight; Jessica, the elder sister and busy new mother carrying way too much; and Jessica’s older sister. Through flashbacks, we are introduced to Ruthy, a headstrong, incredibly intelligent youngster at the heart of the book’s mystery. Ruthy Ramirez’s women are witty, strong, sarcastic, and all too aware of the systemic racial and gender discrimination that torments their part of the globe. When the siblings presume they’ve located the now-adult Ruthy participating in a reality television program, they share the optimism that their family’s deepest scar can eventually be healed.

According to an online interview, Jimenez affirms that she wanted to depict the true unique relationship between sisters as realistically as possible. Additionally, she wanted to depict the true spirited nature of Puerto Rican women and their resilience, especially when faced with a tragedy such as losing one of their family members. For most marginalized cultures or families that deal with depression, humor is one of the driving forces in surviving such struggles and challenges, and that’s true for marginalized Puerto Ricans. In 2020, Jiménez co-founded the Puerto Rican Literary Project, a free digital library including over 50,000 works by Puerto Rican writers, poets, and other creatives. She drew inspiration for Ruthy Ramirez’s story from Nuyorican authors such as Miguel Piero and Pedro Pietri, whom she describes as “hugely influential” on literature and other Americans’ perception of Puerto Rican life in the 1970s and 1980s.

Book Series In Order » Authors » Claire Jimenez

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