Pome­gran­ate Seeds: Latin Amer­i­can Jew­ish Tales

Nadia Gross­er Nagarajan
  • Review
By – July 26, 2012

Pome­gran­ate Seeds is a fas­ci­nat­ing book filled with rich oral nar­ra­tives of wis­dom, expe­ri­ences, folk imag­i­na­tion, jour­neys, his­to­ry, folk­tales, cus­toms and tra­di­tions— and adven­tures. Each of the 34 sto­ries, span­ning 500 years of Jew­ish pres­ence in Latin Amer­i­ca and the Caribbean, is a gem! Nadia Gross­er Nagara­jan, who col­lect­ed these tales on her trav­els through the Latin Amer­i­can con­ti­nent, retells the sto­ries she heard from peo­ple who are liv­ing repos­i­to­ries of extra­or­di­nary life expe­ri­ences and folk­lore. We learn how so many of the Jews came from East­ern Europe and oth­er coun­tries to set­tle in these 11 His­pan­ic coun­tries south of the bor­der. We learn of their occu­pa­tions; their rela­tion­ships with the peo­ple of the coun­try; how one young woman sur­vived the Holo­caust and arrived in Chile; how a Jew­ish ship­builder and mer­chant, David Haim Salas, saved the sailors of the Amer­i­can schooner Cohan­nit in 1877 and, upon refus­ing pay­ment, received a Tiffany engraved sil­ver bowl from Pres­i­dent Ruthor­ford Hayes which remains a fam­i­ly trea­sure; about the Jews of the Ama­zon in Peru; a Jew­ish fairy tale; a bed­time sto­ry; and so much more. This splen­did col­lec­tion will nev­er stand on a shelf after a first read­ing — but rather will become a favorite trav­el companion. 

At the end of each sto­ry there are Source Notes and Text Notes. What con­tributes to a deep­er under­stand­ing of these sto­ries and an appre­ci­a­tion of the author’s exten­sive research is a close read­ing of the anno­tat­ed Text Notes regard­ing his­tor­i­cal back­grounds, expla­na­tions of His­pan­ic and Jew­ish words and con­cepts, iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of per­sons (such as Baron Mau­rice de Hirsch), and expand­ed ref­er­ences, such as the lyrics of a Jew­ish song in bro­ken Argen­tinean Spanish.

In the inter­est of full dis­clo­sure, the author thanks me in her Acknowledgments. 

Phoebe Sorkin, who grad­u­at­ed from Colum­bia Uni­ver­si­ty, works in the edi­to­r­i­al depart­ment of Lit­tle, Brown and Com­pa­ny Books for Young Readers.

Discussion Questions