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 neighbours 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 favourite family dish correctly for an uncle in the hospital, three friends watch an unfamiliar and official-looking man in the neighbourhood, 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 colourful 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.