A short story collection spanning a century of Black American and Afro-Latino life in Puerto Rico, Pittsburgh, Louisiana, Miami, and beyond—and a meditation on belonging, the meaning of home, and how we secure freedom on our own terms.
What do we owe to the people closest to us? To the family, friends and community that hold our secrets, desires and shared history hostage? This is one of the central, burning questions in the poet and professor Jennifer Maritza McCauley’s debut collection of short stories, When Trying to Return Home ... McCauley manages to create a grim, slow-building tension, not from violence but from broken promises ... A painful and powerful opening ... Throughout the book McCauley finds inventive ways of bringing characters back in new contexts, although the collection’s cohesiveness can at times border on repetitiveness, some of the stories and themes bleeding into one another ... In both her poetry and fiction McCauley writes with a lovely lyricism and musicality, an adroitness of construction that brings a lightness to her heavier subjects. Within a crowded field of collections that explore family, motherhood and identity, this debut makes the case for one more.
he 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...blended prose and poems ... What can’t McCauley do? A writer to watch.