Sabrina & Corina: Stories
Trigger warning: This book contains scenes of violence and sexual assault that some readers may find triggering to read.
Home is where Kali Fajardo-Anstine’s debut short story collection Sabrina & Corina takes place. Home is Denver, Colorado, home is familial, generational relationships between women, but home is also being ripped apart by a cycle of violence and gentrification. This gorgeous book follows different Latinas of indigenous ancestry in the American West, a rapidly changing place with a deep heritage and history that isn’t always recognized. The characters in this book are complex, varied, but share a resilience, cultural experience, and working-class backgrounds. Fajardo-Anstine blends familiar and localized pieces of Denver and Colorado history with enduring struggles such as displacement, addiction, poverty, and domestic violence.
Each story stuns with a deeply resonant emotional sensibility, the characters experience life at different angles and ages that seem loosely thematic and connected, but also all their own. The title story captures neatly the role of generational trauma in the lives of women, the narrator relaying these patterns, but also challenging what can seemingly be seen as fated: “I thought of all the women my family had lost, the horrible things they’d witnessed, the acts they simply endured. Sabrina had become another face in a line of tragedies that stretched back generations. And soon, when the mood hit my grandmother just right, she’d sit at her kitchen table, a Styrofoam cup of lemonade in her warped hand, and she’d tell the story of Sabrina Cordova—how men loved her too much, how little she loved herself, how in the end it killed her.” Then as if using the other stories in the book as proof, follows with a hopeful sentiment, that despite the importance of histories and heritage, there are new stories to be made: “The stories always ended the same, only different girls died, and I didn’t want to hear them anymore.” In the story “Cheeseman Park” women experience much tragedy at the hands of men in their life who they are bound to for economic security. Again, the salve to these wounds is other women and generations of women who have survived, endured, and live to tell the tale. A powerful quote from this story sums up the female friendship and powerful bonds that reoccur in the book being: “Time didn’t feel as long or as wasteful in the company of another woman.”
Denverites can appreciate and be proud of this book, as they will recognize familiar locations as well as the story of the city. There’s Cheeseman Park, Colfax, the Northside, but the stories in Sabrina & Corina present an increasingly prevalent and more generalized portrayal of change and gentrification that cities everywhere are experiencing. The book is looking at the connections between ancestry and place even in the midst of rapid change. “Any Further West” features a sex worker and her daughter moving to California from Southern Colorado, demonstrating how hopefulness and new prospects can be equally hostile. Danger arises when they leave their ancestral home, similarly in “Tomi” a formerly incarcerated woman leaves prison only to find a completely transformed city from what she knew and grew up in.
Grandmothers, sisters, mothers, daughters, and friends all navigate the cruelties of life in descriptive and honorific prose. These stories are hard, but with that hardness comes experience, remedy, ritual, and powerful bonds.
Book Reference: Sabrina & Corina
Author: Kali Fajardo-Anstine
Publisher: Penguin Random House, April 7, 2020
National Book Award Finalist
Winner of the American Book Award
Finalist for The Story Prize
Finalist for the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Short Story Collection
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY The New York Public Library
ALA Notable Books – Fiction: 2020
Lily Kosmicki is a librarian, poet, and beekeeper. She has worked at Denver Public Library for 11 years and is a proud member of Denver Public Library Workers United.
JULIA E. TORRES is a nationally recognized veteran language arts teacher, librarian, and teen programs administrator in Denver, Colorado. Julia facilitates teacher development workshops rooted in the areas of anti-racist education, equity and access in literacy and librarianship, and education as a practice of liberation. Julia’s work has been featured on NPR, AlJazeera’s The Stream, PBS Education, KQED’s MindShift, Rethinking Schools, Learning for Justice Magazine, School Library Journal, American Libraries Magazine, and many more. She is a Book Love Foundation board member, Educolor Working Group member, a Book Ambassador for The Educator Collaborative, and a co-founder of #DisruptTexts. Her co-authored title Liven Up Your Library: Design Engaging and Inclusive Programs for Teens and Tweens is just the first of many forthcoming publications for librarians and educators. Learn more about Julia on her website juliaetorres.com or on social media @juliaerin80