Pomegranate: A Novel (Paperback)

Pomegranate: A Novel By Helen Elaine Lee Cover Image
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LONGLISTED FOR THE 2024 ANDREW CARNEGIE MEDAL FOR EXCELLENCE IN FICTION

The acclaimed author of The Serpent’s Gift returns with this “deep and beautiful” (Jaqueline Woodson, New York Times bestselling author) story about a queer Black woman working to stay clean, pull her life together, and heal after being released from prison.

Ranita Atwater is “getting short.”

She is almost done with her four-year sentence for opiate possession at Oak Hills Correctional Center. Three years sober, she is determined to stay clean and regain custody of her two children. Ranita is regaining her freedom, but she’s leaving behind her lover Maxine, who has inspired her to imagine herself and the world differently.

My name is Ranita, and I’m an addict, she has said again and again at recovery meetings. But who else is she? Who might she choose to become? Now she must steer clear of the temptations that have pulled her down, while atoning for her missteps and facing old wounds. With a fierce, smart, and sometimes funny voice, Ranita reveals how rocky and winding the path to wellness is for a Black woman, even as she draws on family, memory, faith, and love in order to choose life.

Pomegranate is a complex portrayal of queer Black womanhood and marginalization in America from an author “working at the height of her powers” (Tayari Jones, New York Times bestselling). In lyrical and precise prose, Helen Elaine Lee paints a humane and unflinching portrait of the devastating effects of incarceration and addiction, and of one woman’s determination to tell her story.

About the Author


Helen Elaine Lee was educated at Harvard College and Harvard Law School. She served on the PEN New England board and on its Freedom to Write committee and volunteered with its Prison Creative Writing Program, which she helped to establish. She is a professor in Comparative Media Studies/Writing at MIT. She is the author of three novels: The Serpent’s GiftWater Marked, and Pomegranate. Find out more at HelenElaineLee.net.  

Praise For…


"An aching portrayal of a woman whose young life gets waylaid by self-splintering challenges: abusive mother, wrong boy, debilitating addictions, grievous betrayals."
Booklist

“A slow-burning, bittersweet novel of recovery, repair, and familial love.”
Boston Globe

“A bold novel…[and] a complex, layered illustration of the effects structural racism, patriarchy, marginalization and violence can have on queer Black women throughout the U.S.”
Ms. Magazine

“A raw, beautiful story of reintegration and a mother trying to do and be better for her kids. Oscillating between present-day Ranita and her past self, this story paints a real, painful picture of a woman caught in a cycle of drug use and eventual prison time, and her daily fight for sobriety and wellness when she returns to her family.”
Southern Bookseller Review

“Lee writes beautifully about the healing power of Black kin networks, queer love, community support systems, and literature.”
Buzzfeed News

“With a light, poetic touch, Lee balances the painful details of Ranita’s reality with genuine, persistent hope for new beginnings. It’s irresistible.”
Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Like the pomegranate of the title…filled with unexpected treasures. Lee has created a powerful, beautifully written story of a woman who painfully confronts her past to build her future.”
Booklist (starred review)

“Lee’s handling of trauma is deft, and her portrayal of the carceral system’s cruelty is unflinching and empathetic…a cache of jewels.”
Kirkus Reviews
Product Details
ISBN: 9781982171902
ISBN-10: 1982171901
Publisher: Washington Square Press
Publication Date: January 30th, 2024
Pages: 368
Language: English