Ghost Sickness by Kali Fajardo-Anstine, 2021
The magic trick:
Perfect encapsulation of how the study of history can become a cultural conflict
I’m sad to see the week of Kali Fajardo-Anstine stories end. They are so rich.
We close with “Ghost Sickness.” In the story, Ana is trying to pass an exam for her college course about the history of the American West. It provides a great way to outline what really is one of the central themes of the entire Sabrina And Corina story collection: minority identity force-filtered through majority culture.
Ana knows the history of the American West in her bones. Her family is the history of the American West. But she struggles to memorize the dates and history nuggets that the white education structure wants her to know.
It really is a perfect encapsulation.
And that’s quite a trick on Fajardo-Anstine’s part.
When Ana returns to the library, she spots Colleen and another girl from history class studying on the second floor near the magazines. They are both blond with sharp features and lengthy, ivory necks. Ana often wonders about students like Colleen – Denver newcomers with trust funds and loft apartments. They came with the tech jobs and legalization of weed, the Great Green Rush, Ana thinks. Clifton says they aren’t too bad. They have nice apartments with new paint, all their cars run, and they rarely speak to you in public, two worlds in one space. The longer they stay, however, the more Ana worries that their world is collapsing her own. She tries avoiding the girls and slips behind a stack of government publications.
“Hannah, right?” Colleen stands behind Ana, goofy with chapped lips.
Ana corrects her, placing a golf magazine on the rack.
“Ready for the final?”
“As much as I can be.”
“Tina and I actually wanted to ask you a question,” Colleen points behind her, the other girl’s light eyes dropped to a cell-phone screen. “You always wear such neat turquoise jewelry. Are you from Colorado, like a Native American?”
“I don’t know, really. It’s complicated. What about you?”
“I’m from Vermont,” says Colleen. “Ever been?”
Ana shakes her head. “Maple syrup? Snow?”
Colleen smiles with gummy teeth. She nods enthusiastically. “Mountains, too. Little ones, though.”
“Whenever I picture those faraways states,” says Ana, returning to her shelving, “I think of white people and dead witches.” Ana laughs and watches as Colleen’s eyes narrow in confusion. “Kidding.”
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