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Book Review: ‘Sabrina & Corina’ by Kali Fajardo-Anstine

Sabrina & Corina by Kali Fajardo-Anstine is a brilliant short story collection surrounding indigenous and Latina characters in Colorado. From the first story to the last story, the book follows the lives of several women who are trying to keep family and history a priority.

“Sugar Babies” is the introductory story showing two classmates trying to care for a pretend baby made of sugar that brings up feelings for the girl who’s trying to develop a relationship with a mother who had abandoned her. “Cheeseman Park” has a young woman staying with her mother and meeting another woman in the same apartment complex who appears misunderstood by their neighbors as they bond in the nearby park. “Remedies” emphasizes how hard it is to incorporate blood ties into the family when a mother brings in her daughter’s father’s other child by another woman into the home and deals with a head lice problem that turns her life upside down. “Tomi” features a woman getting out of prison and bonding with her nephew while figuring out her new surroundings as the neighborhood changes. And the neighborhood changes also comes up in “Galapago” when a grandmother, being pushed by her granddaughter to move away, faces a home invasion. The namesake story, “Sabrina & Corina,” examines the dwindling relationship between two cousins and how one finds relative success and the other experiences the ultimate downfall.

The stories amazingly concentrate in the greater Denver area, showing the Latinx and indigenous female experience we don’t really see in fiction, especially from the perspective of an author who was bred within that culture. There is a struggle for the characters to remain in their homeland where generations before them had settled as they handle the gentrification, family, and discrimination. A consistent theme is the woman’s role in her family and how her relationships with her family dictate all her relationships. They are daughters, granddaughters, sisters, cousins, aunts, mothers, grandmothers figuring out their roles in their current situations.

Overall, the stories are well-structured and thought-provoking. I listened to the book on audio where the voices changed as if to give the indigenous and Latina narrators the opportunity, but it was unnecessary; one narrator throughout the book would’ve worked better to make the transitions more seamless.

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