2.5 Stars · Book Review · Bust · Chicano Lit · Latin American Lit

Thoughts on “Sabrina & Corina: Stories” by Kali Fajardo-Anstine

Sabrina & Corina is a collection of short stories about Latina women living in the United States with many taking place in or around Denver and New Mexico. Chicano Lit and Latin American Lit are my jams, so I was extremely excited to read this book, especially with the praises of Julia Alvarez and Sandra Cisneros, the Queens of Latin American Lit.

I really really didn’t enjoy this book. It was extremely heavy, with each story centering around deep trauma. As a Hispanic woman with cultural knowledge and familiarity with the locations the author wrote about, reading this book felt like reading a family’s deepest darkest and saddest moments, almost like spying on them in their most vulnerable times. It felt invasive and uncomfortable.

One of my favorite parts of Chicano Lit and Latin American Lit is the humor the authors are always able to weave into their tales. Growing up, humor was a cultural staple for hard times in the Latino community. Julia Alvarez, Sandra Cisneros and Isabelle Allende are masters of the art of subtle humor in hard times. This makes their books a joy to read and hard to put down. Fajardo-Anstine, on the other hand, focused solely on the grit and trauma without balancing it out with the strength of hope, laughter, and humor that is norm for our community. After each story, I set the book down for a few days, it was often too depressing to keep reading. This is another book that I would classify as trauma porn.

The other issue I had with this book was the lack of tightness around the writing. In nearly every story, Fajardo-Anstine would introduce a location with “at a lake named…”, “In a town called…”. It was strange and felt oddly disjointed. There were a few other instances where the writing was just slightly off, like it wanted to be poetry but then decided it wasn’t, and got back on track as a short story. The individual stories varied in quality as well, with some being better written than others.

I hope Fajardo-Anstine keeps writing, but adds balance to her stories in a way that makes them human and relatable without just being traumatic.

2.5 Stars · Bad Ass Women · Biography · Gonna Need a Stiff Drink For This One · library · Vietnam · WWII

An unexpected piece of librarian history: A Well Read Woman The Life, Loves and Legacy of Ruth Rappaport by Kate Stewart

So, I had no idea Ruth Rappaport was a real person. I chose this as a Kindle’s first read because it has such a fantastic title. Instead of the expected fantastic historical fiction the title exudes, A Well Read Woman is actually the biography of a Jewish librarian. The author, Kate Stewart came across Ruth’s belongings at an estate sale. She then took those letters, diaries and photographs and pieced together the unusual life Ruth led.

Because the author chose to write a biography rather than a tale based on Ruth’s life, things can get a little boring and mucky with research and there were a few detours. My favorite detour was how the librarians were tasked with providing books to soldiers in Vietnam. The shear scale of the logistics required to create a library, lend books and keep them safe in the jungle paired with the demand for books was astounding. I hadn’t really ever thought about the role books played during a war, and I really appreciated learning about that part of history.

This book wasn’t anything that I expected but it was a pleasant surprise to learn what it took to run a functioning military library in Vietnam. For the most part, this book walked a fine line between being a super personal look into the life of a woman breaking many cultural norms and an incredibly boring research project. At times, the reading was quite heavy and I think a clear distinction between Ruth’s biography and history of the Library of Congress would have helped keep things on track. Overall, interesting but not something I’d recommend unless you’re super interested in librarian history.

2.5 Stars · Biography · Book Review · Bust · Summer Read

Capital Gaines: Smart Things I Learned Doing Stupid Stuff by Chip Gaines

819dCenkuML._AC_UL436_Y’all, I love me some Chip and Joanna Gaines.  But I may have overdone it by reading The Magnolia Story, the Magnolia Journal magazine, We are the Gardeners AND Capital Gaines all in about six months.

Capital Gaines is essentially The Magnolia Story written from Chip’s point of view.  There are a few new stories tossed in, more about Chip’s life pre-Joanna as well as more about his roles and goals for Magnolia, but essentially the same story told by another person.

While Joanna Gaines tends to be a gentle humble narrator, although a little boring at times, Chip Gaines is bold, loud and kind of annoying.  It took me almost two months to get through this book.  His jokes felt super immature and he came across as the kind of guy that tries really hard to be cool but ends up annoying everyone.

The hard part of this read is that while he is annoying, Chip comes across as someone who genuinely loves and cares about his family, his company, the folks who work for him, the city of Waco and about a million other things.  You want to like him!  It’s obvious he is passionate about life and holds nothing back when it comes to chasing down an idea and following through.  I can respect that and definitely admire his fearless all-in attitude.  I didn’t like the “I believe in you” and “I’m in your corner” bits.  Those portions of the book felt very forced and fake.

Capital Gaines also includes excerpts written by people who work for Chip.  It was fun to read about Chip and Joanna from their perspective as well as read about some of the crazy stuff that goes on that neither Chip or Joanna mentioned.

All in all, this books gets 2.5 stars.  While it was fun, there was nothing new or ground breaking and it felt more like a book deal cash grab contract that needed to be fulfilled.

Until next time, happy reading!

Cheers,

-R