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Jackie Kay

Jackie Kay is a prolific, prize-winning poet, short-story writer and novelist and has also written for television, radio and the stage and for children. In 2002 she was made a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and in 2006 she received an MBE for her services to literature. She is Cultural Fellow at Glasgow Caledonian University and Professor of Creative Writing at Newcastle University. In 2015 she was appointed Chancellor of the University of Salford and also took up a position as University Writer in Residence.

Born in Edinburgh in 1961 to a Scottish mother and a Nigerian father, she was adopted at birth by Helen and John Kay, a white Scottish couple from Glasgow, where she grew up. She studied at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama and read English at Stirling University. Although Kay began her career as a writer with the staging of her first play Chiaroscuro in 1986, her fame was established by the poetry collection The Adoption Papers (1991), which won a Scottish Arts Council Book Award and several other prizes. Inspired by her own adoption, it explores themes that also recur in her later work, such as identity, race, relations, and family ties. She went on to publish more poetry, including the volumes Other Lovers (1993), which won the Somerset Maugham Award, and Off Colour (1998). Her 1998 novel Trumpet, about the transgender jazz musician Joss Moody, won the Guardian First Book Award in the same year. The following decade saw the publication of three short story volumes, Why Don’t You Stop Talking (2002), Wish I Was Here (2006) and Reality Reality (2012) as well as a novella Sonata (2006). Her Maw Broon Monologues were performed in Glasgow in 2009 (and an updated version in 2013).

She has also continued to publish poetry: the volume Life Masks (2005), Darling (2007),a collection of older and new poetry,The Lamplighter (2008), a dramatised poem exploring the Atlantic slave trade that was broadcast on BBC Radio 3 in 2007. In her latest volume Fiere (2011) and in her memoire Red Dust Road (2010) she revisits the subject of her adoption. Kay has also published for children, including the novel Strawgirl (2002) and the poetry collection Red, Cherry Red (2007), which won the 2008 CLPE Poetry Award.



Angeletti, Gioia. “‘The Plantation Owner is Never Wearing a Kilt’: Historical Memory and True Tales in Jackie Kay’s The Lamplighter.” Within and Without Empire: Scotland Across the (Post)Colonial Borderline, edited by Carla Sassi and Theo van Heijnsbergen, Newcastle upon Tyne, Cambridge Scholars, 2013. pp. 214-28.

Angeletti, Gioia. “‘The Plantation Owner is Never Wearing a Kilt’: Historical Memory and True Tales in Jackie Kay’s The Lamplighter.” Within and Without Empire: Scotland Across the (Post)Colonial Borderline, edited by Carla Sassi and Theo van Heijnsbergen, Newcastle upon Tyne, Cambridge Scholars, 2013. pp. 214-28.

Arana, R. Victoria. “Clothing the Spirit: Jackie Kay's Fiction from Trumpet to Wish I Was Here.” Women: A Cultural Review, vol. 20, no. 3, 2009, pp. 250-261.

Beyer, Charlotte. “Imagining Mother: Representations of Contested Maternal Identities and Loss in Jackie Kay’s The Adoption Papers and Isha McKenzie-Mavinga’s ‘Yearning To Belong’.” MP: An Online Feminist Journal, vol. 2, no. 6, 2010, pp. 72-83.

Burkitt, Katherine. "Breaking the Mould: Escaping the Term Black British in the Poetry of Bernardine Evaristo and Jackie Kay." Revista Canaria de Estudios Ingleses, vol. 60, 2010, pp. 83-95.

Brooks, Libby. “Don’t Tell Me Who I Am.” Rev. of Why Don't You Stop Talking, by Jackie Kay. The Guardian 12 Jan. 2002. Accessed 7 Nov. 2012.

Buonanno, Giovanna. “Black British Women’s Theatre in the 1980s and the Politics of Representation.” Stages of Embodiment in Postcolonial Theatre, spec. issue of Textus: English Studies in Italy, vol. 30, no. 2, 2017, pp. 67-82.

Clandfield, Peter. “What Is In My Blood? Contemporary Black Scottishness and the work of Jackie Kay.” Literature and Racial Ambiguity, ​edited by Teresa Hubel & Neil Brooks. Rodopi, 2002, pp. 1-26.

Cockin, Katherine."‘Rethinking Transracial Adoption: Reading Jackie Kay’s The Adoption Papers" Auto/Biography Studies, vol. 18, no. 2, 2003, pp. 276-291.

Elgezeery, Gamal. “Fluid Identity of the Daughter in Jackie Kay’s The Adoption Papers”. International Journal of Applied Linguistics & English Literature vol. 4, no. 4, 2015, pp. 125-136.

Gish, Nancy K. “Adoption, Identity, and Voice: Jackie Kay’s Inventions of Self.” Imagining Adoption: Essays on Literature and Culture, edited by Marianne Novy, University of Michigan Press, 2004, pp. 171-192.

Gonzalez, Cadra Rodriguez. “Re-charting the Black Atlantic: Jackie Kay’s Cartographies of the Self”, Etudes Ecossaises, vol. 17, 2015, pp. 103-119.

Grewal, Shabnam, Jackie Kay, Liliane Landor, Gail Lewis, and Pratibha Parmar. Charting the Journey: Writings by Black and Third World Women. Sheba Feminist Press, 1988.

Hácová, Pavlina. “The Poet as Cultural Dentist: Ethnicity in the Poetry of Jackie Kay.” Theory and Practice in English Studies vol. 4, 2005. Accessed 6 Mar. 2013.

“Jackie Kay.” Bloodaxe Books. Web. 11 Nov. 2013.

Kay, Jackie.“A Writer’s View.” Booktrust. n.d. Web. 2 Feb. 2013.

—. Bessie Smith. London: Absolute, 1997.

—. Darling: New and Selected Poems. London: Bloodaxe, 2007.

—. Fiere. London: Picador, 2011.

—. Interview with Helen Brown. The Telegraph 5 June 2010. Web. 25 Feb 2013.

—. Interview with Rowenna Davis. New Internationalist (2011), p. 62.

—. “Stories and Survival.” Interview with Maggie Gee. Wasafiri, vol. 25, no. 4, 2010, pp. 19-22.

—. Life Mask. London: Bloodaxe, 2005.

—. Off Colour, London: Bloodaxe, 1998.

—. Other Lovers. London: Bloodaxe. 1993.

—. Penguin Modern Poets 8, Merle Collins, Jackie Kay and Grace Nichols. Penguin. 1996.

—. Reality, Reality. London: Picador, 2012.

—. Red, Cherry Red. London: Bloombury, 2007.

—. Red Dust Road. London: Picator, 2010.

—. Sonata. London: Picador, 2006.

—. Strawgirl. Macmillan, 2002.

—. The Adoption Papers. Highgreen: Bloodaxe Books, 2009.

—. The Lamplighter. London: Bloodaxe, 2008.

—. The Frog Who Dreamed She was an Opera Singer. London: Bloomsbury, 1999.

—. Trumpet. London: Picador, 1998.

—. Why Don’t You Stop Talking. London: Picador, 2002.

—. Wish I Was Here. London: Picador, 2006.

McClellan, Sarah. “The Notion of Mother and Child in the Work of Jackie Kay.” Obsidian III, vol. 6, no. 1, 2005, pp. 114-127.

Massey, Katy. “Jackie Kay: A Poetic Imagining of Post-racial (Be)Longing.” Darkmatter Journal: Issues, Post-Racial Imaginaries vol. 9, no. 2, 2012. Accessed 6 Mar. 2013.

Monaghan, Patricia. Rev. of Darling, by Jackie Kay. Booklist 15 Apr 2008, p. 19.

Pérez-Fernández , Irene. "Re/Articulating Identity in Jackie Kay's Trumpet". A Rich Field of Pleasant Surprises: Essays on Contemporary Literatures in Honour of Professor Socorro Suárez Lafuente, edited by José Francisco Fernández and Alejandra Moreno Álvarez, Cambridge, Cambridge Scholars Press, 2014, pp. 50-64.

Rajaratnam, Renuka. “Contemporary British Poetry and the Cultural Imagination.” Region/Writing/Home. Relocating Diasporic Writing in Britain. Ed. Corinne Fowler and Graham Mort. Spec. issue of Moving worlds: A Journal of Transcultural Writings, vol. 9, no. 2, 2009, pp. 47-58.

Rice, Alan. “‘Black Music across the Ocean Waves’: Toni Morrison, Jackie Kay and Jazz as African Atlantic Memorial.” Creating Memorials, Building Identities: The Politics of Memory in the Black Atlantic. Liverpool University Press, 2014, pp. 102-152.

Rustin, Susanna. "A Life in Writing: Jackie Kay." The Guardian 27 April 2012. Accessed 7 Nov. 2012.

Scafe, Suzanne. "Black Women Subjects in Autobiographical Discourse." The Cambridge Companion to British Black and Asian Literature (1945-2010). Edited by Deirdre Osborne, Cambridge UP, 2016, pp.144-158.

Schrage-Früh, Michaela. “The Multiplicity of What I am’: Black Scottishness in the Poetry of Jackie Kay.” Acta Universitatis Lodziensis: Folia Litteraria Anglica, vol.8, 2009, pp. 67-77.

Thompson, Molly. “The Body is a Bloody Battlefield: Jackie Kay and the Body in Flux.” Gender Forum 2006. Accessed 5 March 2013.

Toplu, Şebnem. “Adoption and Reconstitution of Lives: Jackie Kay’s The Adoption Papers. Interactions, vol. 17, no. 1, 2008, pp. 113-126.

Tournay-Theodotou, Petra. “‘Love Letter to My Ancestors’: Representing Traumatic Memory in Jackie Kay’s The Lamplighter.” Atlantis, vol. 36 no. 2, 2014, pp. 161-182. 

Tranter, Susan. “Jackie Kay.” British Council Literature: Writers. 2008. Accessed 13  March 2013.

Williams, Patrick. “Significant Corporeality: Bodies and identities in Jackie Kay’s fiction.” Write Black, Write British. Edited by Kadija Sesay. Hertfordshire: Hansib, 2005. pp. 41-55.

Whittington, Bella. “Short Stories: Reality, Reality by Jackie Kay.” Litro 18 Nov. 2012. Accessed 20 March 2013.

Zimmermann, Ulrike. “Out of the Ordinary – and Black? Jackie Kay’s Recent Short Fiction.” Multi-Ethnic Britain 2000+. Ed. Lars Eckstein. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2008, pp. 123-137.


Image source: Denise Else