"Sabrina & Corina" by Kali Fajardo-Anstine

By Fajardo-Anstine, Kali

Reviewed by Julia

ISBN 9780525511304

“Sabrina and Corina” by Kali Fajardo-Anstine is a collection of short stories published last year that was a finalist for the National Book Award.  Newly in paperback, I savored this modern fiction narrated by women of all ages, origin stories (from centuries and generations across Native American & Hispanic land to lives inherited via cultural and socio-economic structures) intermingling with present-day experiences.  There is plenty of subject matter regarding the male gaze on women they deem exotic, manifesting in recollections of abuse, present healing, and aging, with the gentrification of Denver serving as backdrop. Much of the success here - as a work of writing about place - lies in how Fajardo-Anstine’s stories will add new depth to the eyes of readers who feel they already know Colorado and its capitol, which was essentially transformed by white wealth during the tech boom. I always enjoy a work in which a character experiences catharsis, each story just one life’s brief passage towards self-knowledge and understanding, open-ended yet deeply satisfying.  In relationship to one another, each character signifies a link to the many-layered experiences of what it means to be women who will always circle the box signifying “other” to be recognized in one fell swoop by their government.  In one of my favorite passages, a young white student from the Northeast confronts a young Navajo woman to obtain information about turquoise jewelry and her history, receiving the reply that her classmate thinks of white people burning witches in respect to her own region.  The author’s work felt deeply familiar yet original. This is her first book of hopefully many more, and my top pick for the upcoming Reading the West Book Award.  ~Julia

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