Kali Fajardo-Anstine’s beautiful collection of eleven short stories, Sabrina & Corina (2019, One World), shares poignant glimpses into the lives of her Latina characters and the Colorado land their families have inhabited for generations.
A finalist for the National Book Award, Fajardo-Anstine’s descriptions of Denver both past and present will resonate strongly with readers who have an intimate knowledge of the city, though her writing will captivate any audience regardless of residence.
The Western landscape plays such an important role within Sabrina and Corina that it feels like a recurring character, ever present and influential over the women and girls featured throughout the collection:
“Sisters” is set in Denver’s Northside of decades past, describing the time leading up to Doty Lucero’s loss of eyesight “after a date with the wrong man,” while Pearla Ortiz, the aging main character of “Galapago,” reflects on her life lived in a home on the Westside. “Julian Plaza” follows two young girls in the Eastside as they walk through the neighborhood to visit their mother who is dying of cancer, and“Cheesman Park” brings readers to the rolling lawn and white columns of the well-known Denver locale and its surrounding apartments.
Oftentimes heartbreaking, other times humorous, Fajardo-Anstine’s stories capture the complex relationships between mothers and daughters, the tragedy of domestic violence, and the difficulties of navigating the everyday world in a constantly changing and quickly gentrifying environment.
Stories such as “All Her Names” touch on the complicated feelings surrounding the influx of Denver residents after the legalization of marijuana, while “Ghost Sickness” references personal connections to an ancient Navajo story of creation set in the San Juan region as the main character struggles through a present-day college history class taught by an East Coast transplant.
Each story’s characters hold ties to their landscape that are so strong they are inescapable, which proves time and again to be both a gift as well as a challenge.
Check out Sabrina & Corina, as well as other National Book Award nominees, at your closest Denver Public Library location, and find more information on this title and its author at www.kalifajardoanstine.com.
Hannah Evans is the senior librarian at the Smiley branch of the Denver Public Library.