Gershator, David 1937- (Jack Alchemy)

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Gershator, David 1937- (Jack Alchemy)


Born December 2, 1937, on Mount Carmel, Palestine (now Israel); immigrated to United States, 1945; son of Abraham (a teacher) and Miriam (a secretary) Gershator; married Phillis Manuela Dimondstein (a librarian and writer), October 19, 1962; children; Yonah, Daniel. Education: City College (now of the City University of New York), B.A., 1958; Columbia University, M.A., 1960; New York University, Ph.D., 1967.


Home—Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands.


Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ, instructor in Romance languages, 1963-67; Adelphi University, Garden City, NY, assistant professor of Spanish, 1967-68; City University of New York, assistant professor of foreign languages, 1968-69; College of the Virgin Islands, St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, associate professor of English and modern languages, 1969-72; Brooklyn College of the City University of New York, associate professor of humanities, 1973-75; part-time teacher, writer, and small-press editor, 1975-79; Long Island University, Brooklyn Center, adjunct professor of English, 1979-82; writer and painter, 1982—. Lecturer.


Poetry Society of America, Association for Poetry Therapy, Downtown Poets Co-Op (co-founder), New York Poets Co-op (co-founder).


Grant from National Endowment for the Humanities, 1971; poetry award from New York State Creative Arts Public Service, 1977-78.



Bread Is Not for Eating, illustrated by Emma Shaw-Smith, Holt (New York, NY), 1995.

Palampam Day, illustrated by Enrique O. Sanchez, Marshall Cavendish (New York, NY), 1997.

Greetings, Sun, illustrated by Synthia Saint James, DK Ink (New York, NY), 1998.

Only One Cowry: A Dhaomean Tale, Orchard Books (New York, NY), 2000.

Moon Rooster, illustrated by Megan Halsey, Marshall Cavendish (New York, NY), 2001.

Kallaloo! A Caribbean Tale, illustrated by Diane Greenseid, Marshall Cavendish (New York, NY), 2005.

Summer Is Summer, illustrated by Sophie Blackall, Henry Holt (New York, NY), 2006.


Elegy for Val (poetry), X Press Press, 1975.

(Under pseudonym Jack Alchemy) For Sex and Free Road Maps (poetry), Downtown Poets Co-Op, 1976.

Kanji: Poems of Japan, Downtown Poets Co-Op, 1977.

Play Mas (poetry), Downtown Poets Co-Op, 1981.

(Editor and translator) Federico Garcia Lorca, Selected Letters, New Directions Publishing (New York, NY), 1983.

Sabra (poems), Cross-Cultural Communications, 1985.

Contributor to magazines, including Roots, Antaeus, Occident, Confrontation, and Revista Interamericana. Contributing editor of Poets, 1978; associate editor of Home Planet News, 1979.


Of European and American heritage, David Gershator was born on Mount Carmel and raised in Haifa and on a kibbutz—a communal farm—in Israel. He immigrated to New York from Egypt on the first civilian ship to cross the Atlantic after World War II. Raised in Brooklyn, he attended Boys High School and became a fan of the Brooklyn Dodgers. As an adult, he worked as a professor of foreign languages before retiring in the mid-1980s. In addition to publishing poetry in both periodicals and collections, Gershator has also collaborated with his wife, author Phillis Gershator, on several books for young children. Beginning with Bread Is Not for Eating, a 1995 bilingual English/Spanish picture book featuring folk-style illustrations by Emma Shaw-Smith, the Gershators have created a number of original texts that draw on their experiences living and working in the Virgin Islands.

In Palampam Day, they bring to life a special day when every object is given the power of speech and the ability to speak its mind. Through the eyes of a young boy named Turo, readers enter the imaginary tale, in which all manner of things communicate, using the wide variety of languages heard in the Caribbean. While Turo goes hungry rather than bite into a coconut that has just requested that he be left alone, he also finds it difficult to deal with dogs, cats, and parrots with a lot on their minds. Fortunately, a trip to the local wise man, Papa Tata Wanga, provides the boy with a set of magic words that make the sun set quickly on this strange day. In Caribbean Writer online, Sarah F. Mahurt called Palampam Day an "enjoyable story that children can relate to," and Booklist writer Susan Dove Lempke dubbed the Gershators' story "rollicking."

Adapted from a West Indian version of "Stone Soup," Kallaloo!: A Caribbean Tale finds an elderly woman hungry but with nothing at home to eat. After a fruitless attempt to fish for lunch, she finds a colorful shell, runs to the busy town market, and claims that she can make gumbo soup—called kallaloo—from this shell, if others will each contribute something. In School Library Journal, Mary N. Oluonye praised the coauthors' "lilting language," adding that Kallaloo! serves as "a well-written, engaging, and gentle story about sharing and the power of working together."

Other books by the Gershators include Moon Rooster, Greetings, Sun and Summer Is Summer, both of which find young children enjoying time out of doors on a Caribbean island. Featuring stylized artwork by Synthia Saint James, Greetings, Sun is a "celebration of the ordinary," according to Booklist critic Susan Dove Lempke. From sun-filled skies, the Gershators move to nightfall with Moon Rooster. In this story, a rooster who cannot sleep decides to crow the sun back into the sky. As each night sky brings an increasingly brighter, fuller moon, the rooster believes his crowing is working; he also assumes the objects thrown at him by those awakened by his nighttime crowing are gifts. When he finally realizes that a plot is underway to make rooster stew, he hides for a week, and the moon dwindles to a mere sliver without his attention. In typical porquoi fashion, Rooster is coaxed into returning for a few more weeks, thus explaining the monthly waxing and waning of the moon. In School Library Journal Susan Hepler enjoyed the coauthors' "humorous, tongue-in-cheek tone," dubbing Moon Rooster "a strong entry for story-times." A "picture-book celebration of friends having fun in the summer," according to Booklist contributor Hazel Rochman, Summer Is Summer features what a Kirkus Reviews writer deemed "short, rhyming text" in which "paired elements … convey the sights and sounds and tastes" of the festive season.



Booklist, June 1, 1995, Annie Ayres, review of Bread Is Not for Eating, p. 1784; August, 1997, Susan Dove Lempke, review of Palampam Day, p. 1905; March 15, 1998, Susan Dove Lempke, review of Greetings, Sun, p. 1247; April 15, 2006, Hazel Rochman, review of Summer Is Summer, p. 51.

Kirkus Reviews, May 15, 2006, review of Summer Is Summer, p. 518.

School Library Journal, December, 2001, Susan Hepler, review of Moon Rooster, p. 102; June, 2005, Mary N. Oluonye, review of Kallaloo!: A Caribbean Tale, p. 115; June, 2006, Marge Loch-Wouters, review of Summer Is Summer, p. 112.


Caribbean Writer Online, (May 15, 2007), Sarah F. Mahurt, review of Palampam Day.