Petro, Pamela J. 1960-
PETRO, Pamela J. 1960-
PERSONAL: Born June 10, 1960, in NJ; daughter of Stephen (a civil engineer) and Patricia (a secretary; maiden name, Dreher) Petro. Ethnicity: "European-American." Education: Attended Ecole du Louvre, University of Paris, 1980-81; Brown University, B.A. (magna cum laude), 1982; University of Wales, M.A., 1984. Hobbies and other interests: Tennis, kayaking, travel, reading, film.
ADDRESSES: Home—38 Glendale Ave., Providence, RI 02906. E-mail—[email protected]
CAREER: Limited Editions Club, New York, NY, editor, 1985-86; Brown University Learning Community, Providence, RI, instructor, 1993, 1994, and 1997. Rare book consultant to New York Public Library; member of Literacy Volunteers of America.
The Newport and Narragansett Bay Book: A Complete Guide, Berkshire House (Stockbridge, MA), 1994, second edition, 1998.
Travels in an Old Tongue: Touring the World Speaking Welsh, HarperCollins (London, England), 1997.
Sitting Up with the Dead: A Storied Journey through the American South, Arcade (New York, NY), 2002.
Contributor to periodicals, including Atlantic Monthly, Islands, Women's Review of Books, Four Seasons, Endless Vacation, and the New York Times.
SIDELIGHTS: Pamela J. Petro writes nonfiction with a strong regional focus. The Newport and Narragansett Bay Book: A Complete Guide is a travel book; Travels in an Old Tongue: Touring the World Speaking Welsh relates Petro's efforts to get at the heart of the Welsh language and its people; and Sitting Up with the Dead: A Storied Journey through the American South explores the colorful and vibrant oral tradition of the South.
Petro's interest in the Welsh language was sparked while attending the University of Wales. Years later, she wrote Travels in an Old Tongue because of her interest in perfecting her ability to speak it. Frustrated by the Welsh people's tendency to switch to English when she stumbled on their language, she sought areas and people with deep-rooted Welsh traditions. Her explorations of the language not only inspired her to write the book, but they have also made her a respected speaker on how Welsh and other cultures relate to each other from across the globe. In Geographical Magazine Melanie Train remarked, "Even if you have no comprehension of the language (only 18 percent of Wales' inhabitants can speak Welsh) it is worth picking up Petro's witty and unique debut novel."
Sitting Up with the Dead represents Petro's efforts to discover regional, cultural, and historical influences on the oral tradition in the American South. Rather than discuss the topic in broad terms, Petro wanted to offer readers a detailed view of this complex element of Southern culture and how it varies from region to region. Allen Weakland of Booklist commended Petro for showing that the United States still enjoys variation among regional cultures. He particularly enjoyed reading about the "eccentric and captivating" storytellers she encountered, concluding that the book as a whole is "greatly entertaining and informative." In Library Journal, Mary V. Welk described the book as a "delightful sampling of folklore" and an "eyeopening look at an oral art form that is still alive and well." A reviewer for Publishers Weekly found the book to be a valuable source of cultural information, but one that is sometimes limited by the reality that many of the stories lose something in written presentation. Still, the critic concluded, "The strength of this book lies in the fine balance between the individual voices of her storytellers and her own observations and commentary." Similarly, a Kirkus Reviews critic noted that while many of the stories are captivating, "not all stories are created equal, and weirdness alone seldom suffices. More than a few of the tales are lifeless (they beg to be heard, not read), and some of Petro's epiphanies never advance beyond the banal."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, April 15, 2002, Allen Weakland, review of Sitting Up with the Dead: A Storied Journey through the American South, p. 1366.
Geographical Magazine, September, 1997, Melanie Train, review of Travels in an Old Tongue: Touring the World Speaking Welsh, p. 82.
Kirkus Reviews, March 1, 2002, review of Sitting Up with the Dead, p. 314.
Library Journal, May 15, 2002, review of Sitting Up with the Dead, p. 104.
Publishers Weekly, April 15, 2002, review of Sitting Up with the Dead, p. 53.
Berkshire House Publishers,http://www.berkshirehouse.com/ (May 16, 2003).
BBC News Online,http://news.bbc.co.uk/ (July 14, 2003), "Welsh Culture Focus of Conference.*"