Folklore •  Jewish Studies and Latin America

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Pomegranate Seeds: Latin American Jewish Tales

Nadia Grosser Nagarajan

Pomegranate Seeds is the first collection of the oral tradition of Latin American Jews to be presented in English. These thirty-four tales span the 500 years of Jewish presence in Latin America and the Caribbean. The folktales and cultural oral narratives were often based on actual events, recorded not only from the Ashkenazi perspective but from the Sephardic and Oriental as well. Like dispersed pomegranate seeds, all the stories come from a common cluster, yet each is a separate kernel.
The stories are short, between five and fifteen pages, and each is carefully annotated. In addition to gathering stories from eleven Latin American countries, the author found material in the United States and Israel. Regardless of their origin, several tales have to do with personal feelings, emotional insights, and interpretation of the protagonists, while others deal with happy or traumatic events that cannot be forgotten and dreams that have not been fulfilled.
Not surprisingly, trauma and bigotry are common threads through some of the stories. These are tales, as Nadia Grosser Nagarajan says, "concealed by tropical greenery, encircled by vast jungles and flowing majestic rivers that echo many voices and reflect many views and visions."

From "Seeking Wisdom,"
a tale in Pomegranate Seeds
"Many years ago, when the forests south of the river Bio-Bio were still impenetrable, there lived in the beautiful lake district of Chile a very poor family. The father and mother had two children, a girl and a boy, who helped them to fish in the lakes and gather pine nuts in the woods, and thus they had a very simple yet happy existence. . . ."


Nadia Grosser Nagarajan is also the author of Jewish Tales from Eastern Europe. She lives in San Jose, California.

Ilan Stavans is the Lewis-Sebring Professor of Latin American and Latino Culture at Amherst College.

Ilan Stavans is the Lewis-Sebring Professor of Latin American and Latino Culture at Amherst College.


"This collection of folk tales, legends, and true stories that have been handed down by generations of Jews of Latin America are not only of great interest and humor, but also of great inspiration. In addition, through these tales the reader gains an insight into the lives and customs of Jews from Latin American countries."


Multicultural Review

" Pomegranate Seeds is a fascinating book filled with rich oral narratives of wisdom, experiences, folk imagination, journeys, history, folktales, cusstoms and traditions--and adventures. . .This splendid collection will never stand on a shelf after a first reading--but rather it will become a favorite travel companion."


Jewish Book World

"(Nadia Grosser Nagarajan) has created a rich and important cultural history of Jews and Jewish life in Latin America."


Hadassah Magazine

5.5 x 8.5 in. 208 pages