de book of Joseph

Finalist for the OCM Bocas Prize, Poetry, 2023

de book of Joseph, the third book in Mordecai’s epic trilogy about the lives of Jesus, his mother, Mary, and his foster father, the tekton of Nazareth, is a dazzling retelling in Jamaican Creole of the story of Joseph’s life—his first marriage, his magical meeting with Mary, and his role in the birth and raising of Jesus. Mordecai creates a cast of spirited characters who surround a down-to-earth Jesus, Mary and Joseph as they contend with the intrigue around Herod’s determination to assassinate the infant king of the Jews; the family’s escape to Egypt; and the trials they face on their return. At once humorous and tragic, playful and sober, this luminous tale of how Joseph and his families prevail over life’s vicissitudes will reward endless rereading.


“What beautiful language, what beautiful sound. Not a verse without grace, not a verse without lilt and measure. Pamela Mordecai is a wonder, a teller and a burnisher, working the syntax, rhetorical devices and pragmatics of Jamaican language to its perfection.”
—Dionne Brand

“A truly wonderful imaginative creation! In de book of Joseph, part of a ‘retelling in Jamaican language of the ancient story of Jesus,’ Pamela Mordecai invites the reader into the mind of a Joseph who is active in his community. The carpenter reflects how his work with rockstone make him think of the life struggles of the Israelites, how we joust wid de Roman downpressor for freedom and food. Echoes of Jamaica, of Rastafari, of religion, of life. Pure delight!”
–Merle Collins, author of Angel

“Mordecai pulls off another miracle of storytelling grace in this last panel of her New Testament triptych. Her Joseph is a man of joys and sorrows, a traveler through the rigorous geography of antique lands, an intimate weaver of the profane and the sacred. Like his creator, he is a wise wordsmith, blending Jamaican, Hebrew, and Greek in an earthy, playful, sacred, language, enacting ‘how a meaning can travel a difference of words like de same tune sound different on flute and psaltery.’ De Book of Joseph is a triumph.”
–Timothy J Reiss, Professor Emeritus, New York University


Praise for de book of Mary:

“Mordecai’s verses hew to gospel truths but also respect both the poet’s Jewish heritage of scepticism and her roots in Jamaica’s Afro-spiritual-accented and ganja-scented Christianity.”
–George Elliot Clarke, The Chronicle Herald

de Book of Mary is both a salute to [Jamaica’s] colourful patois that [the poet] so loves and a fresh spin on age-old, Bible-based lore.”
–Tallawah Magazine

“[T]his is an imaginative take on a familiar story.”

“Mordecai re(claims) and re-centres the story of Maiden Mary, triumphantly transposing it from the word of men to the stories of women, and from High Church language to everyday speech. As did Derek Walcott before her, she performs the legacy of Caribbean creolization; a muscular hybrid which claims the right equally to the ancient forms of Greek theatre, the traditional practices of Judaism, and the beauty of Caribbean vernaculars and sensibilities. A lovely, chewy book.
–Nalo Hopkinson, author of The Salt Roads

de book of Mary has one awestruck. From her Brechtian opening, in suitably Dantesque tercets chock with lovely lines, Mordecai’s creolized English gives her tale a locale, a rhythm, and deeply felt characters to anchor its astonishing balance of the holy and the profane, the sacred and the quotidian.”
–Timothy J. Reiss, Professor Emeritus of Comparative Literature, New York University

“A rare and dazzling look at her world and ours by one of the most mysterious women of all time.”
–Rachel Manley, author of Drumblair: Memories of a Jamaican Childhood

de book of Mary is a perfect example of how powerful, striking stories will always, in every place and era, find exactly the right person to re-tell them. The poet Pamela Mordecai has found a new way with the Good News–de book of Mary is a page-turner–pure energy released through pure poetry.
JonArno Lawson, author of Sidewalk Flowers


Publication Date: June 2022

Paperback ISBN: 978-1-77415-072-6
Page size: 5.75″ x 8.75″
160 pages

eBook ISBN: 978-1-77415-073-3

Photo of Pamela Mordecai

Pamela Mordecai writes poetry, fiction and plays. Her collections of poetry are Journey Poem, de Man: a performance poem, Certifiable, The True Blue of Islands, Subversive Sonnets, de book of Mary: a performance poem, Up Tropic, and A Fierce Green Place: new and selected poems. Her first collection of short fiction, Pink Icing and Other Stories, appeared to enthusiastic reviews in 2006, and her first novel, Red Jacket, was published in 2015 and shortlisted for the Rogers Writers Trust Fiction Award. Her writing for children is widely collected and well known internationally. El Numero Uno, a play for young people, had its world premiere at the Lorraine Kimsa Theatre for Young People in Toronto in 2010 and its Caribbean premiere at the Edna Manley School for the Performing Arts in Kingston, Jamaica, in 2016. She lives in Toronto.

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