NATIONAL BOOK AWARD FINALIST * Latinas of Indigenous descent living in the American West take center stage in this haunting debut story collection--a powerful meditation on friendship, mothers and daughters, and the deep-rooted truths of our homelands. "Here are stories that blaze like wildfires, with characters who made me laugh and broke my heart."--Sandra Cisneros FINALST FOR THE STORY PRIZE * FINALIST FOR THE PEN/ROBERT W. BINGHAM PRIZE FOR DEBUT SHORT STORY COLLECTION Kali Fajardo-Anstine's magnetic story collection breathes life into her Latina characters of indigenous ancestry and the land they inhabit in the American West. Against the remarkable backdrop of Denver, Colorado--a place that is as fierce as it is exquisite--these women navigate the land the way they navigate their lives: with caution, grace, and quiet force. In "Sugar Babies," ancestry and heritage are hidden inside the earth but tend to rise during land disputes. "Any Further West" follows a sex worker and her daughter as they leave their ancestral home in southern Colorado only to find a foreign and hostile land in California. In "Tomi," a woman leaves prison and finds herself in a gentrified city that is a shadow of the one she remembers from her childhood. And in the title story, "Sabrina & Corina," a Denver family falls into a cycle of violence against women, coming together only through ritual. Sabrina & Corina is a moving narrative of unrelenting feminine power and an exploration of the universal experiences of abandonment, heritage, and an eternal sense of home. NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY The New York Public Library * Kirkus Reviews * Library Journal "Sabrina & Corina isn't just good, it's masterful storytelling. Fajardo-Anstine is a fearless writer: her women are strong and scarred witnesses of the violations of their homelands, their culture, their bodies; her plots turn and surprise, unerring and organic in their comprehensiveness; her characters break your heart, but you keep on going because you know you are in the hands of a master. Her stories move through the heart of darkness and illuminate it with the soul of truth."--Julia Alvarez, author of How the García Girls Lost Their Accents "[A] powerhouse debut . . . stylistically superb, with crisp dialogue and unforgettable characters, Sabrina & Corina introduces an impressive new talent to American letters."--Rigoberto González, NBC News
“Her stance was wobbly and undefined, as though she had given someone else permission to wear her skin. That's when I knew she was forever caught in her own undercurrent, bouncing from one deep swell to the next. She would never lift me out of that sea. She would never pause to fill her lungs with air. Soon the world would yank her chain of sadness against every shore, every rock, every glass-filled beach, leaving nothing but the broken hull of a drowned woman."
In the above quote thirteen year old Casey is describing her mother, who we know doesn't live much into her thirties. All of the selections in this new collection are set in and around Denver, Colorado and involve women mostly, of Latina heritage, just like the author who can trace her family back to when Colorado was part of Mexico. Like all short story collections, some were stronger than others but all the stories in this collection are very good. Wonderful even.
Women are the stars here, in one way or another. The ones that stand out to me are the ones who looked trouble in the face and stood up to it eventually and against all odds. Drugs, alcohol, poverty.....all the usual suspects roam around the streets and lives of the characters in these stories. But somehow the warmth of these families comes through and one after the other someone steps forward and lends a helping hand or saves the day. In the title story, Sabrina has been strangled and her grandmother insists that Corina, who works in the make-up department at Macy's, be the one to apply the make-up for the open casket, " paying special attention to her neck." Family is everything in these stories. Outsiders are not welcome or especially useful. But family......
These characters exuded life and will stay with me for a long time. Highly recommended.
There aren’t many writers currently writing about Chicana Indigenous women. These stories, told in the voices of women of various ages deal with maternal loss, maternal abandonment, violence against women, poverty, addiction, and, ultimately survival.
Kali Fajardo-Anstine grew up in Colorado and it is clear throughout that she understands what her characters are going through. The stories are told with compassion and the women come alive on the page. There is no doubt in the reader’s mind that they are real, living, breathing women inhabiting the Colorado desert towns.
While there is no real connection between the stories, the common setting and the fleeting mention of a character from another story here and there, make the book cohesive and the shared heritage and experiences, authentic.
I must admit that I was painfully aware of my white privilege the entire time I was reading this book and of that fact that I know so little about the hardships portrayed in these stories that so many women endure on a daily basis.
As with all story collections, I found myself engrossed in some more than others. My two favorite stories were Remedies and Tomi, followed by Sisters and Any Further West, but this is undoubtedly a solid debut collection and I am excited to see what the author is going to give us next.
There's a cohesiveness to the setting, but the stories themselves are varied. An elderly lady being is being urged to sell her house and move to a retirement community, a request she resists until an incident takes that choice away from her. A girl accompanies her mother when her mother decides to leave the home they share with her grandmother, for better opportunities in Los Angeles. A woman goes to live with her brother and his son when she is released from prison. A woman feels stifled by her affluent life and so sneaks back to her old neighborhood to hook up with an old boyfriend.
Each story is so perfect on its own, but made richer by its inclusion in the collection. I loved that the center of these stories is a neighborhood, and a neighborhood that changes over time.
These are vividly realistic stories about Latina women living in Denver and southern Colorado, dealing with racism and poverty, and accompanying issues like drug addiction. They're not really "downers"; there's hope and persistence and resistance. In one, Josie becomes a mother at 16, and may no longer be able to handle raising now 10 year old Sierra. In the title story, one cousin, Sabrina, is spectacularly beautiful and has high hopes, but the lack of opportunities drive her to drugs and promiscuity. Corina, plainer, tries to keep her cousin from completely going off the rails, while going to beauty school and trying to establish her own life. Other stories show the holes in our supposed social safety nets. In one, when a mother contracts breast cancer, there are no good options. Her husband's insurance doesn't cover worthwhile treatments, and he can't leave his job to help care for her. What they end up doing is a sad commentary on healthcare in this country.
This excellent collection is piercing, but never unhopeful.
And that's what this book did. The stories take place in Denver and south/southwestern Colorado (with the exception of one that is largely in San Diego). I don't know this area well, the last time I was there was 3 years ago in Cortez. I am more familiar with northern New Mexico, and the climate/landscape is certainly similar. But she just touches on it, and doesn't dive deep in the place. Which is typical of short stories and part of what frustrates me about the medium.
Fajardo-Anstine's characters are Latinx or Native, with deep roots in Colorado. Their homes, neighborhoods, families, food, healing herbs. The culture is what shines through here more than the landscape--and the loss of culture through the loss of complete neighborhoods, intermarriage, death. A lot of these stories feature child of young adult narrators.
My favorite of the stories is All Her Names. I thought the setting in the railroad yard was excellent, and original. A place I have always found confusing, creepy, and terrifying.