The Serpent’s Gift

The Serpent's Gift Helen Elaine Lee Scribner, 1995

The Serpent’s Gift
Helen Elaine Lee
Scribner, 1995

For sale at Amazon.com.

One of the most striking and heartening developments in American letters in recent years has been the flowering and attendant celebration of African-American writers and of books that have introduced to readers everywhere people, situations, and events that have, hitherto, largely been ignored, denied, or unknown. Now comes Helen Elaine Lee’s supremely assured The Serpent’s Gift, a first novel that gives to us—with the fullest emotional resonance, humor, and exultation in the novelist’s art—the intertwined stories of two families from early in this century to our own times.

Central to this haunting (and sometimes haunted) novel are the mothers, a study in contrast in strength and rigidity, Ruby Staples and Eula Smalls, and their children: LaRue Smalls, adventurer, storyteller, and chronicler of his people; his sister Vesta, intimidated by life from an early age, yet determined, valiant even, to hold her disparate family together; and Ouida Staples, a rare beauty who elects, in the face of convention, to spend her life with another woman. Each will face trials and challenges and sometimes be transformed, shedding like the serpent, an old skin, reborn by the art of invention.

Helen Elaine Lee

About Helen Elaine Lee

Helen Elaine Lee is a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School. Her first novel, The Serpent's Gift, was published by Atheneum and her second novel, Water Marked, was published by Scribner. Her short story “Blood Knot” appeared in the spring 2017 issue of Ploughshares and the story “Lesser Crimes” appeared in the Winter 2016 issue of Callaloo. She recently finished The Unlocked Room, a novel about a group of people who are incarcerated in two neighboring U.S. prisons and the woman who comes to teach them poetry as she searches for her lost brother, and Pomegranate, a novel about a recovering addict who gets out of prison and strives to stay clean and get her kids back. Stories from The Unlocked Room have appeared in Callaloo, Prairie Schooner, Hanging Loose, Best African American Fiction 2009 (Bantam Books), and www.solsticelitmag.org. Helen was on the board of PEN New England for ten years, and she served on its Freedom to Write Committee and volunteered with its Prison Creative Writing Program, which she helped to start. She has written about the experience of teaching creative writing in prison in a New York Times Book Review essay, “Visible Men”. She is currently the Director of MIT’s Program in Women’s & Gender Studies.

 
 

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