Kali Fajardo-Anstine was born in Denver, Colorado and knew early on that she wanted to be a writer, but growing up she did not see herself, nor her family, represented.
“I could never pick up a book, turn on the TV, listen to the radio, and find people like us who are allowed to talk about the nuance of their identity,” she said. “Everything was always sort of neatly put into categories and those categories did not represent who we were.”
Kali is a mixed Chicana woman with Indigenous and Filipino ancestry. Her work reflects that identity in hopes of creating a space where readers can feel represented and seen, she said.
Kali weaves her family’s and community’s experiences in Sabrina and Corina, a collection of short stories that focuses on the lives of Chicanos and Chicanas in and around Denver. Kali also recently released her debut novel, Woman of Light.
“When I was writing this book I was really thinking about the stories that my ancestors told about the things that they had gone through, coming from southern Colorado and northern New Mexico and the Philippines and other places,” she said.
In Woman of Light, Kali highlights some of the discrimination her ancestors faced. “Not only do we exist, we have really big, entertaining, dramatic stories,” she said. “I’m providing that space for others who maybe come from these ancestries that are oftentimes very confusing and they’ve been taken away from us. Our stories have been stripped of us.”
The women in her family have also influenced her work. “My family has a very deep queer lineage,” she said. “I really wanted to show these Chicana lesbians in their historical spaces because in my family queerness has always been so important and we’ve been so accepting.”
In this episode of Latino USA, Kali Fajardo-Anstine talks about how her life experiences and identity blend into her work and how she’s honoring her ancestors from the American West through her writing.