When Trying to Return Home: Stories (Paperback)

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Staff Reviews

This was a stellar collection! The very first story pulls you right in and I couldn't stop reading more. Every story felt like it they could be full blown novels at some point. 

There is also this frantic and furious energy in many of the stories which IMO is very hard to pull off in short stories. This writer achieved something great here. 

One last note: Mavis and Estelle have my whole heart <3

— From Rosa


A New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice

A dazzling debut 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

Profoundly moving and powerful, the stories in When Trying to Return Home dig deeply into the question of belonging. A young woman is torn between overwhelming love for her mother and the need to break free from her damaging influence during a desperate and disastrous attempt to rescue her brother from foster care. A man, his wife, and his mistress each confront the borders separating love and hate, obligation and longing, on the eve of a flight to San Juan. A college student grapples with the space between chivalry and machismo in a tense encounter involving a nun. And in 1930s Louisiana, a woman attempting to find a place to call her own chances upon an old friend at a bar and must reckon with her troubled past.

Forming a web of desires and consequences that span generations, McCauley’s Black American and Afro–Puerto Rican characters remind us that these voices have always been here, occupying the very center of American life—even if we haven’t always been willing to listen.

About the Author

Jennifer Maritza McCauley is a writer, poet, and university professor. She has been awarded fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, Kimbilio, CantoMundo and the Sundress Academy for the Arts. She holds an MFA from Florida International University and a PhD in creative writing and literature from the University of Missouri. The author of the cross-genre collection SCAR ON/SCAR OFF, she is an assistant professor of literature and creative writing at the University of Houston-Clear Lake.

Praise For…

Reading the West Book Awards Nominee
Longlisted for the Aspen Words Literary Prize
A New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice

Kirkus Reviews
, A Best Short Fiction Book of the Year
The Week, A Most Anticipated Book of 2023

People en Español, A Most Anticipated Books of the Year
One of Electric Literature's Books by Women of Color to Read This Year
Latinx in Publishing, A Must-Read Book

"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." —Amil Niazi, The New York Times

"One of the Best New Books to Read in 2023." —Today

"Breathtaking . . . Ms. McCauley’s When Trying to Return Home reminds us that every day of our lives is both dangerous and, despite fear and anxiety, beautiful." —Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

"The worst thing I have to say about When Trying to Return Home is that I wish it was longer. Maritza McCauley teases her skills throughout the collection, highlighting her mastery of thrills and heartbreak, all the while incorporating authentic, genuine glimpses into the Black American and Afro-Puerto Rican experience." —Lillian Pearce, Michigan Daily News

"Powerful . . . It’s great for fans of moving novels that’ll have you questioning your own sense of belonging and hunting for a community of your own." —Marilyn La Jeunesse, Elle

"These stories will beguile and intrigue. They are equally tender and sharp, gentle and defiant, delicate and resilient." —Karla Strand, Ms., A Most Anticipated Title of the Year

"Jennifer Maritza McCauley’s short story collection, When Trying to Return Home, takes complex characters and situations and weaves them into a tapestry that provides the reader with an emotional journey. The collection demonstrates McCauley’s dexterity as a writer as she shifts voices, styles, and points of view . . . When Trying to Return Home stands as one of the best books of the year and is a must-read." —Jose B. Gonzalez, Latino Stories

"A dazzling debut 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." —Kailey Brennan Dellorusso, Write or Die Magazine

"Admiringly gutsy and tender, with flashes of poetry . . . What can’t McCauley do? A writer to watch." —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"McCauley’s explosive debut collection crackles with moments of honesty, upheaval, and longing among families . . . Each story is a treasure." —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Powerful, propulsive, and at the same time, tender, the stories in When Trying to Return Home overflow with unforgettable characters and voices. A stunning debut! —Deesha Philyaw, author of The Secret Lives of Church Ladies

"Singular in power, beauty, wisdom, and depth, these stories blend razor sharp social commentary with an uncanny insight into the human experience. Jennifer Maritza McCauley introduces herself as a writer to behold with wonder." —Margaret Wilkerson Sexton, author of On the Rooftop

"McCauley is a powerful literary medium, able to speak in the voices of an astonishing range of characters, and to make us feel their presence in the room." —Debra Dean, bestselling author of The Madonnas of Leningrad and The Mirrored World

"In When Trying To Return Home live a cast of some of the most memorable characters and predicaments I've encountered in fiction. These interlinked stories will introduce you to a mother who fights to keep her two children close to her; a nun who considers her options for the future and her boisterous, ever-protective sister; a boy who meets a discarded family member; an adoptive mother whose will angers her heirs––just to name some characters. Jennifer Maritza McCauley is an incredibly gifted writer and I can't wait to see what she shares with us next." —De'Shawn Charles Winslow, author of Decent People

"This collection is a gorgeous kaleidoscope, audacious and wise, capturing and releasing the ways that love assaults us. McCauley’s stories will split your heart, but they will also, lovingly, fuse it back together." —Ivelisse Rodriguez, author of PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction finalist Love War Stories

Product Details
ISBN: 9781640096349
ISBN-10: 1640096345
Publisher: Counterpoint
Publication Date: February 6th, 2024
Pages: 272
Language: English