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.