When trying to return home Stories

Jennifer Maritza McCauley

Book - 2023

"A short story collection spanning a century of Black American and Afro-Latino life in Puerto Rico, Pittsburgh, Louisiana, Miami, and beyond-and an evocative meditation on belonging, the meaning of home, and how we secure freedom on our own terms"--

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Short stories
Berkeley, California : Counterpoint Press 2023.
Main Author
Jennifer Maritza McCauley (author)
First hardcover edition
Physical Description
253 pages ; 22 cm
  • Torsion
  • When trying to return home
  • The missing one
  • Good guys
  • Fevers
  • I don't know where I'm bound
  • Last saints
  • La espera
  • Liberation day.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

McCauley's explosive debut collection crackles with moments of honesty, upheaval, and longing among families. In "Torsion," Black Pittsburgh college student Claudia hews to an unwavering love for her volatile single mother, a hair technician who struggled to support Claudia and her younger brother Sam, who is now in foster care and needs dialysis for his renal failure. In Claudia's loyalty, she allows her mother to convince her to help take Sam from his white foster mother, so the family can be reunited. In "Trying to Return Home," Andra constantly faces questions from white people about her ethnic background and takes to answering with a mix of vagueness and specificity. At her new job in south Florida, she says her father is "Black American; her mami Cagus-born, mixed with several Something Elses." As she mourns her deceased mother, who neglected to fill her in on their family tree, McCauley offers an illuminating view of the complexity of Andra's private life. "La Espera" features multiple points of view on a messy family situation, with sisters Elena and Camila and Elena's husband, Carlos, the father of Camila's 12-year-old twin daughters. In a poignant scene, the girls are dressed in bright dresses while waiting at their house in Puerto Rico for Carlos to visit them from New York City, where he lives with Elena ("Let's impress him with your loveliness," Camila tells them). Each story is a treasure. (Feb.)

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Review by Kirkus Book Review

Short fiction featuring Black and Latine characters trying to figure out their roles within their families, their love lives, and their communities. In the bite-sized title story of McCauley's collection, the narrator, Andra, moves to South Florida, where her new co-workers want to know where she's from. "No, I mean…really?" they say. Andra's father is Black, her mother Puerto Rican. She's visibly othered, but grief has also estranged her, as she's recently lost her mother. When Andra runs into a dark-skinned Latina at a panadería who speaks Spanish to her, she freezes, thinking of her mother, "Body-full with misted ancestors, yearning for old ghosts." McCauley, who is also Afro-Latina, chronicles such yearnings in each story, interested in those spaces where differing forces collide internally and externally. Sometimes those forces are based in identity, as in the stunning opening story, "Torsion," in which the narrator, Claudia (another young Afro-Latina) weighs loyalty to her mother against her desire to move into a self-determined future after her mother asks her to help illegally seize her young disabled brother from the foster parent he's living with. Almost always, those forces have a moral dimension, as well, as in "Good Guys," in which Alejandro, a college student at Miami Dade College, seeks to convince the audience, and himself, that he's better than the class villain, Vick, who comes on to a young woman with a very good reason for not being interested in dating. The stories hang together in surprising ways, often linked across time--McCauley excels at historical fiction as well as contemporary. Individually, they are each admiringly gutsy and tender, with flashes of poetry. No reader will be surprised to learn that McCauley's debut--Scar On / Scar Off (2017)--blended prose and poems. What can't McCauley do? A writer to watch. Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.