National Book Award Finalist and author of Sabrina & Corina and Woman of Light
Photo Credit: Estevan Ruiz
About Kali Fajardo-Anstine
Kali Fajardo-Anstine is a National Book Award Finalist for her debut story collection, Sabrina & Corina. Drawing from her Southern Colorado heritage and life experiences living across the American West, Fajardo-Anstine’s writing and lectures reflect her own heritage as a Colorado Chicana with roots in Indigenous, Latina, and Filipino cultures. In rousing talks that challenge the status quo, Fajardo-Anstine speaks about her racial and familial identity, the systems in our society that hold back marginalized people, and the craft of writing about and researching one’s cultural roots.
In Sabrina & Corina, Fajardo-Anstine puts Latinas of Indigenous descent living in the American West at the center of each story. Her words serve as a powerful meditation on friendships, identity, mothers and daughters, and the deep-rooted truths of our homelands. Against the remarkable backdrop of Denver, Colorado, the women in these stories navigate the land the way they navigate their lives: with caution, grace, and quiet force.
In addition to being a finalist for the National Book Award, Sabrina & Corina was also a finalist for the Story Prize, a finalist for the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Short Story Collection, and the winner of the American Book Award. The collection was named one of the best books of the year by the New York Public Library, Kirkus Reviews, and Library Journal, and the American Library Association named it a 2020 Notable Book.
Woman of Light, Fajardo-Anstine’s first novel, is a dazzling epic of betrayal, love, and fate that spans five generations of an Indigenous Chicano family in the American West. Hailed as a “cinematic, epic story” by Mira Jacob, it is a national bestseller and was selected as a Good Morning America Book Buzz pick in October 2022.
Fajardo-Anstine’s deep love of bookstores led her to work as a bookseller for over a decade at West Side Books in North Denver. Her work has been honored with the Denver Mayor’s Award for Global Impact in the Arts and the Mountains and Plains Independent Booksellers Association Reading the West Award. She has been edited and mentored by writers like Mat Johnson, Joy Williams, and Ann Beattie. She also received the 2021 Addison M. Metcalf Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
In addition to Sabrina & Corina, Fajardo-Anstine’s stories and essays have appeared in GAY Magazine, The American Scholar, Boston Review, Bellevue Literary Review, Southwestern American Literature, Electric Literature, and more. Fajardo-Anstine has attended residencies at Yaddo, where she was the 2017 recipient of The LeSage-Fullilove Residency, Hedgebrook, and MacDowell Colony.
Kali Fajardo-Anstine earned her MFA from the University of Wyoming and has lived across the country, from Durango, Colorado, to Key West, Florida. She is the 2022/23 Endowed Chair of Creative Writing at Texas State University and the 2023 Guggenheim Fellowship.
Kali Fajardo Anstine
Claiming Identity as an Act of Resilience
As an intersectional Chicana feminist with roots in Indigenous, Latina, and Filipino cultures, Kali Fajardo-Anstine focuses strongly on mixed identity in her work. In a talk that engages and inspires, Fajardo-Anstine discusses the nature of claiming one’s identity, whether that be racial, familial, economic, or social. She shows audiences the power of resiliency in understanding where you come from, and draws on her experience as a mixed race woman from a working class background to underscore identity as a tool of empowerment.
Challenging Our Social Structures
Kali Fajardo-Anstine is no stranger to the societal systems at work that, whether advertently or inadvertently, suppress women of color. By illustrating her background—a working class high school drop out from Colorado who has experienced and witnessed mental illness, generational trauma, and domestic violence—she challenges things like American education, health care, and mental health services, and argues that these systems do not always help those who are pushed to the margins. Fajardo-Anstine infuses this lecture with honesty about the massive change required of the systems we rely on in order for people of all backgrounds to benefit from them.
Researching and Writing About Your Roots
In writing her debut short story collection, Sabrina & Corina, Kali Fajardo-Anstine utilized research and archives to access the many facets of her culture. In a talk that blends craft with knowledge, Fajardo-Anstine reveals how writers of all kinds can begin to research their cultural roots in order to write more meaningful short stories and novels about certain identities.
Storytelling and Researching Our Family Roots
In a talk that blends storytelling with elements of family research, Fajardo-Anstine reveals how unearthing hidden family stories can lead to a greater sense of self and generational healing. In writing her nationally bestselling novel Woman of Light and award-winning short story collection, Sabrina & Corina, Kali Fajardo-Anstine utilized family research and archives to access the many facets of her complicated cultural identity. In this lively talk of family, identity, and healing, Fajardo-Anstine offers advice on research and the ways we can retain and honor our ancestors through storytelling.Categories: Education Speakers, College + University Speakers, Culture + Arts Speakers, Current + Social Issues Speakers, Diversity + Inclusion Speakers, Healthcare + Medicine Speakers, Hispanic & Latine Heritage Month Speakers, History Speakers, Library + Community Reads Speakers, Literary Fiction Speakers, Mental Health and Disability Awareness Speakers, Social Justice Speakers
Praise for Kali Fajardo-Anstine
Praise for Woman of Light
Woman of Light is a Western novel—it cares deeply about the landscape. The terrain of the Lost Territory teems with life, even as settling pioneers call it empty. The cold mountains and expansive plains of Colorado serve as stand-ins for the harsh realities Luz endures. No land can be truly conquered. No people can be truly conquered either. Not as long as their stories, and their memories, endure.— The Boston Globe
Woman of Light is an intimate and intensely moving story of a Latinx and Indigenous family in the American West. Kali Fajardo-Anstine’s lyrical, unpretentious prose renders the generations of women of this story in all of their complexity, offering a nuanced perspective on how the past can inform the future. Once again, Fajardo-Anstine proves she is a formidable, necessary voice in fiction.— Taylor Jenkins Reid, author of Malibu Rising
With a single phrase, a single line of dialogue, a single description, Fajardo-Anstine has the power to accurately express the joy and sadness in a person’s life, their history, and how the world comes into contact with us, and how we come into contact with the world. The combination of a composed style and a passionate world view underlying all of her work is truly wonderful. It’s captivating. Fajardo-Anstine is a special author to me.— Mieko Kawakami, author of Breasts and Eggs
This indelible novel shines its big light on the Lopez family so brightly that I could draw a map of their breath. An absolutely glorious novel.— Emma Straub, author of All Adults Here
This is a rare and wondrous kind of novel that assembles the universe from mere words, whose unforgettable characters haunt like long shadows in the southwestern light.— Gary Shteyngart, bestselling author of Lake Success
Pure, simple, and luminescent. There are no other words to describe Kali Fajardo-Anstine’s Woman of Light, a brilliant conflagration of a story that opens the eyes and inflames the heart.— Craig Johnson, author of the Longmire series
A cinematic, epic story. Kali Fajardo-Anstine brings her keen understanding of desire, vulnerability, and destiny to this gorgeous reclaiming of lost history.— Mira Jacob, author of Good Talk
Fajardo-Anstine’s storytelling is absolutely engrossing.— Shondaland
A transporting story of the importance of family history told in a luminescent style.— Good Housekeeping
Sensory-rich details… A lush, immersive historical novel.— Kirkus
An entrancing book about the stories we carry, the ones we need to keep telling. Fajardo-Anstine has given us another stunning cast of characters to root for.— Lithub
A novel with vast reach.— Electric Literature
A classic legendary Latinx story and a punch that says she can square up with any contemporary writer. Quite literally—Fajardo-Anstine can do both, she can do it all.— Lupita Reads
Wildly entertaining…a transfixing novel about survival, family secrets, and love—filled with an unforgettable cast of characters.— Latinx in Publishing
Praise for Sabrina & Corina
Sabrina & Corina isn’t just good, it’s masterful storytelling. Fajardo-Anstine is a fearless writer: her women are strong and scarred witnesses of the violations of their homelands, their culture, their bodies; her plots turn and surprise, unerring and organic in their comprehensiveness; her characters break your heart, but you keep on going because you know you are in the hands of a master. Her stories move through the heart of darkness and illuminate it with the soul of truth.— Julia Alvarez, author of How the García Girls Lost Their Accents
[A] powerhouse debut . . . stylistically superb, with crisp dialogue and unforgettable characters, Sabrina & Corina introduces an impressive new talent to American letters.— Rigoberto González, NBC News
Fierce and essential stories . . . Feminine agency, legacy and kinship . . . govern the hearts of every character in this book.— The New York Times
A terrific collection of stories—fiercely and beautifully made.— Joy Williams
Here are stories that blaze like wildfires, with characters who made me laugh and broke my heart, believable in everything they said and did. How tragic that American letters hasn’t met these women of the West before, women who were here before America was America. And how tragic that these working-class women haven’t seen themselves in the pages of American lit before. Thank you for honoring their lives, Kali. I welcome them and you.— Sandra Cisneros
In the eleven stories of Sabrina & Corina, Fajardo-Anstine writes a love letter to the Chicanas of her homeland—women as unbreakable as the mountains that run through Colorado and as resilient as the arid deserts that surround it. . . . In her fierce, bold stories, these women—and she—are seen, and heard, and made known; the collection is both a product of pain and a celebration of survival. . . . Like the woman on Sabrina & Corina’s cover, the hearts of these characters are exposed but intact. Fajardo-Anstine’s heart is there on the page, too, beating with the blood of her ancestors.— Bustle
Sabrina & Corina summons a world we hardly recognize, but should. . . . Fajardo-Anstine can make a story smell of sickness. She can make legend of malediction. Conjuring the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, and unfurling the Denver skyline, there is no limit to what Fajardo-Anstine can manifest on paper and, subsequently, in our dreams. Yet, what is most admirable is the courage of her hand. She’s unafraid to delve into areas of race, feminism, queerness, and class. She interrogates whiteness, and its associations like passing and colorism, prodding unapologetically.— Electric Literature
[A] beautiful collection.— HelloGiggles
[An] engrossing collection of tales . . . Stories that bravely reinvent the Wild West narrative by lifting up Latinx women and portraying callused hand cowboys not as heroes, but as villains and perpetrators of violence.— Latino Book Review
You will clutch your heart reading Kali Fajardo-Anstine’s short story collection. Her stories are that heartbreaking, each one like a gift from a small child, offered with earnest, luminous eyes, innocence itself, impossible to reject. . . . Go find yourself a copy of this thrilling, touching, beautiful book.— New York Journal of Books
In [Sabrina & Corina] we find a different narrative of the West. These are women who inhabit a space between the Indigenous and the Latinx; they are fierce [and] powerful in their own way.— Brooklyn Rail
Kali Fajardo-Anstine writes about hard truths in women’s lives so knowingly, and with such a deft touch, I felt hyper-alert, as well as implicated and imperiled. The book is about belief, coping, yearning, and proceeding in spite of adversity (that is, the times we stay alive). The final act of the first story tells us everything we need to know about what territory we’ll be entering: In these achingly convincing stories, the writer is writing delicately, symbolically, about mortality itself.— Ann Beattie
Books by Kali Fajardo-Anstine
Media About Kali Fajardo-Anstine
- 212 572-2013
- Kali Fajardo-Anstine travels from Laramie, WY
Woman of Light
“Sometimes you just step into a book and let it wash over you, like you’re swimming under a big, sparkling night sky.”—Celeste Ng, author of Little Fires Everywhere and Everything I Never Told You