About Making Callaloo
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 han 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.
Maybe about an hour before the New Year kicked the old one out, a crew of adults would huddle over the pot of pig feet to determine the next step: when to convert the feet that had been cooking on slow ﬁre for hours into souse. They had to ﬁgure the logistics of moving pig feet through a series of clear water rinses and the exact right moment to add the onions, green pepper, and cucumbers. Then the delight of biscuits, the kind that came in the packs that you shoved into the oven for a few minutes. The biscuits had to be hot, hot, butter dripping, even though the souse was cold at serving. It was in this process that the adults reacquainted themselves after a year away from the group. Too, there might be new fellow travelers for the evening. The children, as well, tried to ﬁgure out who was who. It wasn't easy to sort each other out because some parents were not consistent in coming to the Ole Year’s night fête.
- From "Ole Years Night" Making Callaloo in Detroit
"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, im-promptu dances, holidays, and songs makes for a joyous read."
"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."
"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
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