Mordecai, Pamela 1942- (Pamela Claire Mordecai)
Mordecai, Pamela 1942- (Pamela Claire Mordecai)
Born November 2, 1942, in Kingston, Jamaica; daughter of Louis Montefiore (an accountant) and Rita Rose (a teacher) Hitchins; married Martin Manley Mordecai (an information specialist), October 21, 1966; children: David Yuri, Rachel Lara, Daniel Jeffrey Fitzgerald. Education: Newton College, B.A., 1963; University of the West Indies, diploma in education, 1965, higher diploma in education, 1971, Ph.D. Religion: Roman Catholic. Hobbies and other interests: Theater, gardening, ceramics, and painting.
Home—Toronto, Ontario, Canada. E-mail—[email protected]
Writer, educator, and publisher. High school teacher, 1963-67; Mico Training College, assistant lecturer, 1968-69, lecturer in English, 1973-74; Gaynstead Extension School, supervisor, 1970; freelance television interviewer and presenter, 1974-80; Caribbean Journal of Education, Kingston, Jamaica, publications officer and editor, 1974-88; DeBrosse Redman Black & Co., managing director, 1988-94; Sandberry Press, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, publisher, 1988—. Worked for Jamaica Information Service TV. Research fellow in education, University of the West Indies, Kingston, 1971-72.
Association of Caribbean Women Writers, Scholars Association of Women Writers and Scholars, Writer's Union of Canada.
Jamaica Festival Competition, best supporting actress award, 1964, Silver and Bronze medals for poetry, 1975, 1976, and 1977; Tercentary Medal, Institute of Jamaica, 1980; First Vic Reid Award for Children's Writing, 1993; BURLA Award for overall contribution to Caribbean literature, 2005.
Storypoems: A First Collection, Ginn and Company (Aylesbury, England), 1987.
Journey Poem, Sandberry Press (Kingston, Jamaica), 1989.
Don't Ever Wake a Snake, Sandberry Press (Kingston, Jamaica), 1992.
de Man: a performance poem, Sister Vision Press (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1995.
Ezra's Goldfish and Other Storypoems, National Book Development Council of Jamaica (Kingston, Jamaica), 1995.
The Costume Parade (children), Oxford University Press (Oxford, England), 2000.
Rohan Goes to Big School (children), Oxford University Press (Oxford, England), 2000.
Certifiable (poems), Goose Lane Editions (Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada), 2001.
(With Martin Mordecai) Culture and Customs of Jamaica, Greenwood Press (Westport, CT), 2001.
The True Blue of Islands (poetry), Sandberry Press (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2005.
Pink Icing and Other Stories, Insomniac Press (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2006.
(With Mervyn Morris) Jamaica Woman: An Anthology of Fifteen Jamaican Women Poets, Heinemann Caribbean (Kingston, Jamaica), 1980.
From Our Yard: Jamaica Twenty-one Anthology of Poetry, Institute of Jamaica Publications, 1987.
(With Betty Wilson) Her True True Name: An Anthology of Women's Writing from the Caribbean, Heinemann (Oxford, England), 1989.
Calling Cards: New Poetry from Caribbean/Canadian Women, Sandberry Press (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2005.
Also editor of From Our Yard: Jamaican Poetry since Independence, 1987. Author of El Numero Uno; or, The Jonkonnu Pig from Lopinot and of language and reading textbooks. Columnist for Catholic Opinion, c. 1980. Dance and theater critic. Contributor to periodicals, including Jamaica Journal and Caribbean Quarterly. Publications editor, Caribbean Journal of Education, 1974—.
Pamela Mordecai once told CA: "I have a strong sense of the mind of a child. My writing for children (which is playful, and at the same time respects the child's person and intellect) comes easily and surely. Other writing is another, more complex, matter. Having grown up in a multi-cultural, multi-lingual situation (a Creole society) has everything to do with an appreciation of the ironic, rhythmic, dramatic possibilities of words."
Mordecai wrote her first poem when she was nine years old. In addition to writing poetry and short stories for both adults and children, she has edited numerous anthologies focusing on the writing of Caribbean women. In her 2001 collection of poems titled Certifiable, the author writes about madness, both within a family and her own feelings of madness. "Pamela Mordecai has produced a collection that opens the doors of those who are destined to be with the white coats," noted T. Anders Carson of the Danforth Review. Carson also referred to the collection as "a recommended read."
Mordecai collaborated with her husband, Martin Mordecai, to write Culture and Customs of Jamaica. "The chapter on social customs includes an engaging description of Jamaica's cuisine, and their discussion of Jamaican music provides an interesting historical context surrounding the worldwide appeal of reggae music," wrote Eileen Oliver in Reference & User Services Quarterly.
The True Blue of Islands, published in 2005, was dedicated to her brother who was murdered in Jamaica in 2004. The True Blue of Islands is a collection of the author's poetry, including a tale of the trials and tribulations of an ex-slave named Great-Granny Mac. In a review of the poetry collection for Canadian Literature, Katherine Verhagen wrote: "No one can write sorrow like Pamela Mordecai. As a poet, she evokes the slow and difficult process of accepting personal trauma in many shades of pain."
Mordecai also served as editor of the 2005 anthology titled Calling Cards: New Poetry from Caribbean/Canadian Women. Most of the poets featured in the collection do not have book collections of their poetry published. The poets use a combination of standard English and vernacular English in their poems. "Throughout the anthology, the poets demonstrate seamless code-switching between two languages," noted Verhagen for Canadian Literature.
In her short-story collection, Pink Icing and Other Stories, the author presents twelve stories focused on people living in Jamaica. Many of the stories feature tales about children and are told from a child's perspective. Noting this aspect of the stories, Literary Review contributor Michael Reckord commented: "Complexity is frequently a product of the tension between what the reader understands and the young narrators do not. Mordecai makes the most of this tension, using it to create stories that are as unsettling as they are insightful about the nexus of the child's world and the adult's." In one story, for example, the author features the troubled Alvin, who, after being expelled from school, finally makes a friend in the older Mr. Chin, which represents a connection not only across generations but also across ethnicities. "One of the main strengths of this collection is Mordecai's mastery of the English language and her ability to transmit the rhythms and characters of the island," wrote Alexis Kienlen for Canadian Literature. "Mordecai is an expert at describing subtle or overt nuances of island life." Anne Borden wrote for the Danforth Review: "Mordecai is a masterful storyteller with a poet's sense of detail and a keen grasp of dialect," adding that the author "often starts with a seemingly plain story, slowly adding depth to create a suspenseful read that is rich in both character development and plot."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Globe & Mail (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), January 6, 2007, "In the Pink," review of Pink Icing and Other Stories, p. D10.
Journal of Pidgin and Creole Languages, June, 2004, Barbara Lalla, "Creole and Respec' in the Development of Jamaican Literary Discourse."
Literary Review, spring, 2007, Michael Reckord, review of Pink Icing and Other Stories, p. 175.
Reference & User Services Quarterly, summer, 2001, Eileen Oliver, review of Culture and Customs of Jamaica, p. 379.
Times Literary Supplement, February 23, 1990, review of Her True True Name, p. 12.
Toronto Star, April 22, 2007, review of Pink Icing and Other Stories, p. D6.
Wadabagei, summer/fall, 2004, Elaine Savory, interview with Pamela Mordecai, pp. 73-83.
Canadian Literature,http://www.canlit.ca/ (February 11, 2008), Katherine Verhagen, reviews of The True Blue of Islands and Calling Cards: New Poetry from Caribbean/Canadian Women; Alexis Kienlen, review of Pink Icing and Other Stories.
Danforth Review,http://www.danforthreview.com/ (February 11, 2008), T. Anders Carson, review of Certifiable; Anne Borden, review of Pink Icing and Other Stories.
Pamela Mordecai Home Page,http://www.pamelamordecai.com (February 11, 2008).