With a welcome from Professor Junot Díaz, introduction from lecturer Fatin Abbas, and discussion moderation by lecturer Ruth Bates.
The acclaimed author of The Serpent’s Gift, Helen Elaine Lee, returns with Pomegranate, a poetic and powerful journey of healing and autonomy.
As she wraps up her four-year sentence for opiate possession at Oak Hills Correctional Center, Ranita Atwater is determined to stay clean and regain custody of her two children from the aunts who have been raising them. Leaving behind her lover Maxine, who has helped to awaken and inspire her, she must face a world of temptations, confront the wounds that refuse to stay buried, and honor the body that has seldom felt like it belongs to her.
As novelist Jennifer Haigh has said, “Ranita’s journey out of addiction and incarceration and early trauma, her daily struggle to live a life as large as her spirit, is a remarkable feat of literary conjuration. This is what novels are for.”
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. Helen was on the board of PEN New England for 10 years, and she served on its Freedom to Write Committee and volunteered with its Prison Creative Writing Program, which she helped to start. She wrote about the experience of leading creative writing workshops in prison in a New York Times Book Review essay, “Visible Men”. Her stories about people who are incarcerated have appeared in Prairie Schooner, Callaloo, Hanging Loose, Best African American Fiction 2009 (Bantam Books), and Solstice Literary Magazine. Her novel Pomegranate was published in April 2023. It is about a woman who is getting out of prison and striving to stay clean, repair her relationships with her kids, and choose life. Her journey to grapple with the past, own and tell her story, and reassemble the pieces of her life is one of healing and autonomy. Her website is helenelainelee.net.