by Leslie Gonzalez
Sabrina & Corina is hopelessly beautiful. In eleven short stories, Kali Fajardo-Anstine weaves soft yet biting tales about Latinx Indigenous women and children from Colorado that reveal the consequences of intergenerational trauma, displacement, female violence and femicide, racism, and the erasure of culture and identity.
In Sugar Baby, thirteen-year-old Sierra cares for a bag of sugar for her class project when her mother, who had abandoned her at a younger age, returns to her life only to leave again when a connection between mother and daughter is made. The result of this dance between hope and grief results in the uncontrollable death and eventual destruction of Sierra’s “sugar baby.” The story’s end is a representation of passing on the cycle of intergenerational trauma, how someone’s grief or unhappiness can make them forget about the “big picture,” about “…something bigger, something like family, a people, even a tribe.”
Fajardo-Anstine’s lofty yet earthy language is told like a weaver stitching over a tapestry. It’s colorful but piercing each time the needle punctures the fabric. In Sabrina & Corina, the book’s namesake, the feminine voices are constantly strangled into silence. Sabrina, who is biracial and adored for her doll-like looks, is strangled to death by her boyfriend only to have the violence covered up with make-up on the day of her funeral. The duality of life and death is shared while revisiting Sabrina’s fragile existence, one that is told through her cousin Corina’s point of view. The reflection of Sabrina’s life tackles her mixed identity, how the people in her life objectified her, down to her substance abuse. Sabrina’s story exposed the repetitive cycle of violence and eventually, added Sabrina as “…another face in a line of tragedies that stretches back generations.”
Although the book is seen through the female lens, Sabrina & Corina is only one of several stories Fajardo-Anstine uses to remind the reader that the male gaze—the male presence—is ever looming and lurking, often ending in violence, abandonment, or enduring grief. In Sisters, Doty Lucero is blinded by her date, a result to appease her sister who believes that being with a white man could offer security. The story shows just the opposite and represents the loss of sight. Sight stolen, not just physically, but socially as the girls reveal the discrimination and racist behavior of white people at their local drive-in theater. It is an occurrence unseen by anyone who is not of color. Doty is blinded, robbed by a man who violently takes her sight in more ways than one and in turn, blinds the reader from the rest of Doty’s point of view.
But not all is hopeless. In Galapago, Pearla is an older woman who is displaced when she is removed from her home, one she shared with her husband of forty years before his death. The removal is a double-edged sword. Pearla is removed due to the dangers of her neighborhood, which is on its way to gentrification. Her removal—a decision, at first, she did not willingly make—represents a woman accustomed to a light-less life dictated to past traditions before exiting into the unknown, into a certain freedom.
Fajardo-Anstine’s short story collection Sabrina & Corina is honest. It unshrouds undeniable truths and the stories’ lack of resolution is bittersweet and lingers on the reader’s tongue long after they have been consumed. But, when completed in its entirety, Sabrina and Corina utilizes repetition to expose the real-world problems we face in society and asks the reader if we should dare hope for a better future.
Leslie Gonzalez is a freelance writer and editor from San Diego, California. Her works of fiction are published in Mythos and Indie IT Press, and her editorial work is published on LOCALE, OK Whatever, and Flaunt. Her writing primarily focuses on entertainment, fiction, and commercial content creation. She earned her BA in Creative Writing from California State University, Northridge and her MFA in Fiction from University of California, Riverside at Palm Desert.