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Making Callaloo in Detroit

Lolita Hernandez

Award Winner

Detroit, Fiction, Michigan

Made in Michigan Writers Series

Published: May 2014
ISBN: 9780814339695
Pages: 184 Size: 5.5 x 8.5
Published: May 2014
ISBN: 9780814339701
Pages: 184 Size: EPUB

Reading Making Callaloo in Detroit is like arriving at an unexpectedly fabulous party, rich with sumptuousness and surprise, peppered with a guest list eclectic and bright.

— Dean Bakopoulos

The daughter of parents from Trinidad and Tobago and St. Vincent, Lolita Hernandez gained a unique perspective on growing up in Detroit. In Making Callaloo in Detroit she weaves her memories of food, language, music, and family into twelve stories of outsiders looking at a strange world, wondering how to fit in, and making it through in their own way. The linguistic rhythms and phrases of her childhood bring distinctive characters to life: mothers, sons, daughters, friends, and neighbors who crave sun and saltwater and would rather dance on a bare wood floor than give in to despair. In their kitchens, they make callaloo, bakes, buljol, sanchocho, and pelau—foods not usually associated with Detroit.

Hernandez’s characters sing and dance, curse and love, and cook and eat. A niece races to make a favorite family dish correctly for an uncle in the hospital, three friends watch an unfamiliar and official-looking man in the neighborhood, lovers and daughters cope with sudden deaths of the men in their lives, a man who can no longer speak escapes his life in imagination, and families gather to celebrate the new year with joyful dancing against a backdrop of calypso music. Hernandez’s stories reflect the diversity of characters to be found at the intersection between cultures while also offering a window into a very particular and rich Caribbean culture that survives in the deepest recesses of Detroit.

In addition to being a compelling and colorful read, Making Callaloo in Detroit explores questions of how we assimilate and retain identity, how families evolve as generations pass, how memory guides the present, and how the spirit world stays close to the living. All readers of fiction will enjoy this lush collection.

Born and raised in Detroit, Lolita Hernandez is the author of Autopsy of an Engine and Other Stories from the Cadillac Plant, winner of a 2005 PEN Beyond Margins Award. She is also the author of two chapbooks, Quiet Battles and snakecrossing. She is a 2012 Kresge Literary Arts fellow, and her poetry and fiction have appeared in a wide variety of literary publications. After over thirty-three years as a UAW worker at General Motors, she now teaches in the creative writing department in the University of Michigan Residential College.

Besides Hernandez’s skill with the voices of her characters, her celebration of the food of these cultures is nothing short of amazing, and her rendering of parties, fetes, impromptu dances, holidays, and songs makes for a joyous read.

– Anne-Marie Oomen, author of An American Map (Wayne State University Press, 2010)

Lolita Hernandez pulls you entirely into her world before she spins her tales. In her writing, you can taste the callaloo, hear the calypso music, smell the air on a gloomy Detroit day, and hear the accents of her Trinidadian kin.

– Angela P. Dodson, editorial consultant and former editor for the New York Times and Black Issues Book Review

Reading Making Callaloo in Detroit is like arriving at an unexpectedly fabulous party, rich with sumptuousness and surprise, peppered with a guest list eclectic and bright. Lolita Hernandez leads us on a melodic journey that explores the stories of outsiders, as well as a mysterious magic that compels us to hold onto our oldest traditions even as we are pulled ahead into new and unknown worlds.

– Dean Bakopoulos, author of Please Don’t Come Back from the Moon

If you want to smile as well as be surprised, pick up Making Callaloo in Detroit, open to its first page, and let this wonderfully talented writer lead you into her spicily seasoned, often sensual, sometimes gritty, and always rewarding realms.

– Lisa Lenzo, Read Her Like an Open Book blog

  • 2015 Michigan Notable Book Awards - Result: 1 of 20 selected annually
  • 2015 Montaigne Medal from the Eric Hoffer Awards - Result: Finalist
  • 2015 Next Generation Indie Book Award - Result: Finalist in the Short Story - Fiction category