Reviews for Sabrina and Corina: Stories

by Kali Fajardo-Anstine

Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Latina and Indigenous American women who long to be seen and see themselves are the beating heart of the stories in Fajardo-Anstine's rich and radiant debut. Many of their parents aren't around, and the pleas of their elders to go to church once in a while are mostly ignored, but they lean on one another. Dead or dying loved ones people many of these tales; the dazzling title story launches with woozy velocity as a makeup artist heeds her grandmother's wish that she beautify her dead cousin for funeral viewing. In Sugar Babies, a class assignment to parent a bag of sugar as if it's a human baby makes a girl question what she's inherited from her own young mother. After her release from prison, a woman tries to stop messing up and earns the respect of her young nephew in Tomi. Galapago finds a woman, forced by crime to leave her longtime home in a gentrifying neighborhood, feeling ashamed that even in her old age, she wanted to live more than die. Sharing her characters' southern Colorado homelands, Fajardo-Anstine imbues her stories with a strong sense of place and the infinite unseen generations that coexist in even single moments.--Annie Bostrom Copyright 2019 Booklist

Publishers Weekly
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In Fajardo-Anstine’s beautiful debut collection, set largely in Denver, Colo., she dexterously explores what it means to be Latina, indigenous, and female in ways both touching and powerful. In “Sugar Babies,” readers meet sixth grader Sierra, who grows uncomfortable in her home economics class when she is forced to partner with a male student and care for a infant bag of sugar—a “sugar baby.” With a mother who keeps leaving her and her father, Sierra emotionally breaks down when her sugar baby dies, exposing years of pent up anger and grief at her lost mother. In the title story, Corina struggles with the murder of her cousin at the hands of her latest abusive boyfriend, as she, a new cosmetology student, agrees to prepare the body for the family funeral. Fajardo-Anstine’s women also contend with racism, sexism, and loss of cultural identity. In “Sisters,” Doty wants more than just to become a white man’s “little Spanish girl” like her sister aspires to be, choosing instead to explore her attraction to women. In “Ghost Sickness,” a college student, Ana, struggles in a history course that has overwritten the original Navajo and Pueblo people’s history with the history of white, European conquest. These stories are stirring meditations on the lives of Latinas of indigenous ancestry; Fajardo-Anstine’s collection is vividly alive with the love and pain of its characters, while echoing with the spiritual power of their pasts. (Apr.)

Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Eleven achingly realistic stories set in Denver and southern Colorado bear witness to the lives of Latina women of Indigenous descent trying to survive generations of poverty, racism, addiction, and violence."Ever feel like the land is swallowing you whole, Sierra?" the narrator's mother, Josie, asks her in "Sugar Babies," the first story of Fajardo-Anstine's debut collection. "That all this beauty is wrapped around you so tight it's like being in a rattlesnake's mouth?" Here, it's becoming a mother at 16 that threatens to swallow Josie, prompting her to abandon 10-year-old Sierra. In "Sabrina Corina," which follows two cousins, women's lack of opportunities and their dependence on men undo Sabrina, a blue-eyed, dark-haired beauty. While Corina, the plainer of the two, goes to beauty school, Sabrina spirals into substance abuse and sleeps around. She's murdered at the story's start, and Corina has the horrible task of going to the mortuary to do her cousin's makeup, literally covering up the violence she suffered. In "Julian Plaza," gaping holes in our social safety net ensnare the characters. When Nayeli gets breast cancer, her family has no good choices: Her husband's health insurance won't cover effective treatments, and he can't care for her for fear of being canned. Fajardo-Anstine writes with a keen understanding of the power of love even when it's shot through with imperfections. Nayeli's young daughters try to carry their mother home from the neighbor's where she has been sent to die. And Sierra from the title story still fantasizes about her mother returning at some point, "joyously waving to me, her last stop."Fajardo-Anstine takes aim at our country's social injustices and ills without succumbing to pessimism. The result is a nearly perfect collection of stories that is emotionally wrenching but never without glimmers of resistance and hope. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.