sabrina and corina

Fajardo-Anstine Hosts VIA, Book Signing

Abby Thatcher

National book award nominee, Kali Fajardo-Anstine, visited Manchester University’s campus Monday, Sept. 19. to give a VIA and book signing on her novels “Sabrina & Corina” and “Woman of Light.” Fajardo-Anstine also had lunch with students and spent time discussing her works and inspirations.

The VIA was arranged by Dr. Beate Gilliar, chair of the English Department, who had been teaching the novels in her class. One student wrote to Fajardo-Anstine expressing empathy for the characters in “Sisters,” who had to cope with their mother’s cancer, writing: “I couldn’t imagine what it was like.” Later, the student asked to write to Fajardo-Anstine again, because she discovered her own mother had cancer. It was this story that led to Gilliar arranging the VIA.

During the VIA, Fajardo-Anstine answered questions pertaining to her novel in front of a group of students. One question was on the treatment of men in her “Sabrina & Corina.” “It’s easy to skip over the men in my stories, but there’s some really good ones,” Fajardo-Anstine said. “They just get forgotten.” She gave examples of the father in “Sugar Babies,” who solely raised his daughter after his wife had left him. She also focused on Harrison from “Remedies,” who suffered just as much as the women in the story.

Before the VIA, those in the audience were given postcards to write to Fajardo-Anstine. This was part of Gilliar’s “Postcard Project,” to encourage students to write to important people in their lives. “I really appreciated the postcard idea,” said English education student Madison Cunningham. “It was really cool to write one to the author. It gave an opportunity to get clarification on her books, especially since some of her short stories ended on cliffhangers.”

Fajardo-Anstine also read passages from her novels at her book signing later that evening. She started with the story of Simodecea, a skilled sharpshooter in “Woman of Light,” and expressed her own emotional journey while writing the book. “On my mother’s side we didn’t exist, and ‘Woman of Light’ was my response to that,” she said. The novel follows Luz, a tea leaf reader, as she grows up in 1930s Denver and learns about her own family’s history. “Everyone loves ‘Sabrina and Corina’ but I don’t think enough people have read ‘Woman of Light’ yet. I know when it starts to pick up more people will see themselves in it,” she said.

While “Sabrina & Corina” was published first, Fajardo-Anstine had actually started working on it after starting “Woman of Light.” “I used it as a training ground, you know, like how do I get to a full novel” she said.

The reading itself had impacted English Education student James Walsh. “I only made it to the reading later that night, but hearing her explain the origins and concepts behind some of the ideas in these books was super cool, ” he said. “Wish I’d gone to the rest throughout the day.”

While Fajardo-Anstine could only stay for the day, her novels continue to impact Manchester students. She will release a short story in October about a sex worker during the pandemic and intends to publish another novel in the future.