Duffy, Patricia Lynne 1952-

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DUFFY, Patricia Lynne 1952-


Born May 8, 1952, in New York, NY; daughter of John Joseph and Estelle (Vahlsing) Duffy; married Joshua Cohen, December 25, 1986. Education: City University of New York, B.A., 1975; Columbia University, M.A., E.S.O.L., 1981. Hobbies and other interests: Travel, writing, studying languages, reading.


Office—c/o American Synesthesia Association, Inc., 63 Livingston Ave., Dobbs Ferry, NY 10522. E-mail—[email protected].


United Nations, New York, NY, teacher of language program, 1985; American Language Institute, New York University, New York, NY, assistant professor of ESL, 1981-91; University of Nanjing, People's Republic of China, producer of English-language teaching TV series, 1987-88; Writer's Harvest: The National Reading at Maison Française, Columbia University, co-chair, 1998—; freelance writer.


National Association of Teachers of ESL, American Synesthesia Association, Inc. (co-founder and consultant).


NYU grantee, 1986.


Variations: Reading Skills/Oral Communication for Beginning Students of ESL, Prentice-Hall (Englewood Cliffs, NJ), 1986.

Innovations and Innovators, Prentice-Hall (Englewood Cliffs, NJ) and ABC News, 1993.

Blue Cats and Chartreuse Kittens: How Synesthetes Color Their Worlds, Times Books (New York, NY), November, 2001.

Contributes regularly written columns on intercultural encounters to The South Shore Express, a Long Island, NY, newspaper. Personal essays and articles about Asia, Europe, and synesthesia have appeared in publications including The San Francisco Chronicle, New York Newsday, The Village Voice, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Ms., and Boston Globe. Contributor to anthologies They Only Laughed Later: Tales of Women on the Move, Europublic Press (Brussels, Belgium), 1997, and Soulful Living, HCI Publications (New York, NY), 1999.


Patricia Lynne Duffy's interest in languages and multiculturalism led her to become a teacher of English as a Second Language (ESL). She has written two textbooks on the subject, as well as numerous essays and articles. More recently, Duffy wrote a book on synesthesia, a sensory condition that continues to mystify researchers over a century after it was first diagnosed.

Synesthesia is defined as the ability of an individual to respond simultaneously to stimuli with multiple senses. For example, some synesthetes see letters in specific colors; for them, "R" is always green, "X" is always black. Others associate musical notes with color, or have the ability to "smell" the shape of something. Duffy, herself a synesthete, wrote Blue Cats and Chartreuse Kittens: How Synesthetes Color Their Worlds in an effort to shed some light on what the condition means to those people who have it.

It is a difficult concept to explain to someone who does not have synesthesia, and even harder to understand. Research suggests that about one person in every 2,000 experiences synesthesia, a much different ratio than the one given by neurologist Richard Cytowic in 1996, when he estimated that one person in every 25,000 lives with this neurological condition.

Duffy's book raises a number of questions, among them whether the condition is transmitted genetically and why many children lose the mingling of senses after they learn abstract language. She addresses these issues by examining famous artistic personalities who lived with synesthesia. Novelist Vladimir Nabokov, for example, was a second-generation synesthete; both his mother and his son also had it. Painter David Hockney uses synesthesia in his work, and musician Franz Liszt found its effects inspiring.

In a Salon.com interview with Alison Motluk, Duffy described her own experience as a synesthete, and recalled the day she realized that most people did not see the world as she did. At the age of sixteen, she was telling her father about the trouble she had experienced as a child learning to write the letter R. "I realized that to make an R all I had to do was first write a P and then draw a line down from its loop. And I was so surprised that I could turn a yellow letter into an orange letter just by adding a line." Readers both inside and outside the medical and psychological communities have found Blue Cats and Chartreuse Kittens to be an interesting account of what a Publishers Weekly reviewer called "this fascinating type of perception."



Booklist, November 15, 2001, Mary Carroll, review of Blue Cats and Chartreuse Kittens: How Synesthetes Color Their Worlds, pp. 532-533.

Modern Language Journal, autumn, 1987, Paul Markham, review of Variations: Reading Skills/Oral Communication for Beginning Students of ESL, pp. 347-348.

Publishers Weekly, October 1, 2001, review of Blue Cats and Chartreuse Kittens, p. 47.


Blue Cats and Chartreuse Kittens,http://www.bluecatsandchartreusekittens.com/ (March 7, 2002), press release, book reviews, author biography.

Salon.com,http://www.salon.com/ (November 27, 2001), Alison Motluk, review of Blue Cats and Chartreuse Kittens.

Sensequence,http://www.sensequence.de/ (January 8, 2002), Patricia Lynne Duffy, "Pat."*