Issa Book Review: Sabrina & Corina by author Kali Fajardo-Anstine

by: Tania Lasenbrg

Kali Fajardo-Anstine’s magnetic story collection breathes life into her Latina characters of indigenous ancestry and the land they inhabit. Set 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.- Goodreads

This is what short stories should aspire to be. From the moment you begin reading to the moment you are done, you feel a range of emotions.

First, you receive some satisfaction because the ending of each story doesn’t leave you on a cliff-hanger, wanting more. Instead it leaves you with a sense of understanding and purpose and more importantly, a connection with characters.

It is very clear that Fajardo-Anstine chose her strongest stories to be in the beginning. This is not to say that as you get closer to the ending you begin to lose interest because that’s not the case at all. But when you read Sabrina and Corina, which is the second story, you know she did not come to play.

Each of these women, these girls have a powerful emotion that they are either discovering within the story or discovering how to deal with it. How Fajardo-Anstine builds the setting in such a short amount of time is amazing. But the story that blew me away was Remedies.

Remedies reminded me of my own family, specifically the idea of passing down not only memories but skills. Things that would be lost if they were never taught. It’s powerful because these skills connect us with our elders, with our ancestors. It reminds us they will never be forgotten if we use and instill what they’ve taken the time to teach us.

Although there is a bigger theme in Remedies, this was the first thing that stuck out to me because Fajardo-Anstine brings it full circle to not let us (the readers) forget about it.

Every story was connected in some form but I didn’t realize that until mid book. I thought that was a fantastic touch that Fajardo-Anstine did.  I know that I keep saying this but that connected me to every person in the story. I felt this book and will now use this as what all short stories, be it young adult, adult fiction or non-fiction should strive for.

4 Pickles