Sabrina & Corina : stories

by Kali Fajardo-Anstine

Hardcover, 2018




New York : One World, [2018]


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… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member ProfH
A very impressive collection of short stories. Some are much stronger than others, in fact the collection's high point is the first story "Sugar Babies." The writer has a tendency to construct each segment with mirroring characters. It is a technique that she seems to have a mastery over, but it will be really interesting to see if she will build a more independent character over the course of a novel. I'd love to hear more from the narrator of "Sugar Babies." Looking forward to the writer's next publication.… (more)
LibraryThing member lisapeet
A terrific debut collection. Fajardo-Anstine is writing about a very specific slice of American culture—Western Chicanas of indigenous ancestry, set mostly in Colorado—but she never reverts to type or falls into any sort of shorthand. These stories are about the many permutations of love and family, and the (mostly) mothers, daughters, sisters, and aunts here are wonderful creations. There is so much heart in this collection, and so much good writing as well. Really nicely done all the way through—a pleasure.… (more)
LibraryThing member msf59
Wow! This is an impressive story collection. I love discovering a fresh new voice, and this young author delivers. Mostly female characters populate, these stories- mothers, daughters, sisters, cousins and friends and all of Latina heritage, living in the Denver metropolitan area. There is some joy found in these pages, but are struggles too, along with a hefty dose of grit. This was a National Book finalist and I clearly think it is deserving. Here is a sample of her lovely prose:

“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."
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LibraryThing member muddyboy
A stylish well conceived collection of short stories that deserve all the acclaim that they have received. The stories are full of the author's Latina culture and heritage. One thing I particularly appreciated was the total uniqueness of these stories. A couple I really liked were "Remedies" which tell of various treatments for ailments that were handed down through generations and "Sabrina and Corina" about cousins who travel down totally different paths in their lives. These tales are very strong start to finish.… (more)
LibraryThing member brenzi
"Her stance was wobbly and unrefined, 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 worlds 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." Any Further West

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.
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LibraryThing member BgGirl
11 poignant, gut-wrenching stories told from the perspective of the indigenous Chicana community of Denver and Southern Colorado.

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.
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LibraryThing member Iudita
I was drawn to this book by it's beautiful cover and decided to read it based on it's high rating, but unfortunately it just didn't work for me. However I'm glad to see so many people enjoyed it because there is nothing largely problematic with the book. The writing and the nature of the stories just didn't suit me at all.
LibraryThing member RidgewayGirl
This short story collection that is primarily set in Denver's Northside neighborhood among the Latinx community there. As the neighborhood gentrifies, the old homes are replaces with luxury housing and fewer and fewer of the original inhabitants remain. A few stories are set in a small town in northern New Mexico, where the same pattern holds; the locals don't stay.

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.
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LibraryThing member jnwelch
This is yet another exception to my avoidance of short story collections; thanks to Ted Chiang and others, the exceptions threaten to outnumber the rule.

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.
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LibraryThing member larryerick
I knew little about this book when I started reading it. Since reading it, I have seen videos in which the author states her main purpose was to merely get a book out there that talked about people like her and her friends and family. Further, it seems it was marketed as primarily to tell more recent immigrants to Denver in Colorado about the not so distant Chicano culture in the Denver area and how certain neighborhoods have been changed. That's all well and good, but, as modest as these goals seem to me, the fact is there is more than ample evidence that this writer is more than just a little deserving of the book awards it's been in competition to receive. This is *really* solid writing. In doesn't suffer from any of the shortcomings I find so easily in many other fictional works, especially by newer authors. In some respects, it reminds me of a Latinx version of Wendell Berry's fictional Kentucky town of Port William, putting it at the top of the list of the most engaging fictional writing I have ever read to date. This book doesn't let the life lessons viewpoints shine through quite as clearly and as forcefully as Berry's,'s the thing: I don't predict she will eventually write the Great American Novel, but I do think she has the potential to do just that. If she finds a enough drive to assemble an epic about the life she grew up in and the lives she came in contact with, and the patience to link all of it together, she certainly has the writing chops to put it on paper with clarity and style. Very much looking forward to her next work.… (more)
LibraryThing member Dreesie
I was expecting a lot from this book because I have seen such rave reviews about it. And it was fine, better than some of the short story collections I read last year, not as good as others. I don't love short stories though, they usually just leave me wanting more--about the characters, the place, the landscape, what happens next.

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.
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LibraryThing member Hccpsk
On the shortlist for this year’s National Book Award, Sabrina & Corina by Kali Fajardo-Anstine is a collection of stories about the American West and the people of color who live there. These short stories connect not only through the characters’ backgrounds, but through the Colorado location, where they all inhabit the same small towns and neighborhoods, and even use the same cemetery. They also connect through the themes of family and lives with missing pieces--mostly parents who left or died-- and the relationships between those left behind. Fajardo-Anstine constructs a beautiful, painful world of early deaths, grandparents, poverty, and addiction through these snippets of lives written in even smaller snippets that often flash back and forth through the characters' lives. This a gorgeous and interesting collection of stories doubtful to win the NBA, but certainly worth a read.… (more)



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