Red Dust Road: An Autobiographical Journey
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Red Dust Road: An Autobiographical Journey

3.78 of 5 stars 3.78  ·  rating details  ·  461 ratings  ·  92 reviews
Once, as a small child, she realizes that her skin is a different color from that of her beloved parents, Jackie Kay embarks on a complicated and humorous journey to treasure the adoptive family that chose her, track down her birth
parents—her Scottish Highland mother and Nigerian father—and embrace her unexpected and remarkable life.

In a book shining with warmth, humor, an...more
ebook, 0 pages
Published April 13th 2011 by Atlas (first published 2010)
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Claire McAlpine
Outstanding, brilliant, what a wonderful book and beautifully articulated story. A favourite for 2012, a hidden treasure absolutely. Can't wait to read more from her.

Read my full review on my blog 'Word by Word'

Before attending the Sydney Writers' Festival earlier this year, I had never head of Scottish poet and author Jackie Kay. But I had time between the events I had planned on going to and decided to go along to her Q&A session, because I was interested in the subject matter of how the imagination helps us to cope in distressing situations. The session began with her reading from her new collection of short stories, Reality, Reality. I was immediately blown away by the story itself and her deli...more
Jan 09, 2014 Dot rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Jennifer
I had not heard of this writer until I was given the audio CD version of this book for Christmas. Jackie Kay is a poet and a professor of Creative Writing at Newcastle University in the UK.

Many people have written about the evil effects of discrimination and this author has encountered more than most. She was born to a white Scottish woman and a black Nigerian father and adopted by a white Scottish couple in the 1960s in Glasgow where most people were hostile to anyone with a darker skin. She is...more
I think at the moment I'm really into books that take their political commitments for granted, that aren't about trying to persuade you into them or explain them, that don't assume you don't already share those values, where radical politics is the setting, not the jewel. Human stories about and for politicised people.

I came across Jackie Kay in a book of women's poetry -- she'd written a poem about a woman frantically trying to hide all traces of her left-wing political commitments from her ho...more
I have never felt as intensely mirrored or seen as I did from reading this book. I'm actually kind of shaking a little. Thank you Jackie.
While I have very very little in common with Jackie Kay (we're both women and we both had questions regarding our biological fathers and that's about it), I felt wrapped up in her travels to find where she came from. It wasn't so much a quest as it was taking opportunities as they were presented. She wasn't sentimental or melodramatic about meeting her parents; to me her journey read more like...well, a journey. It was more than just meeting her mother and father and extended families and becomi...more
Juliet Wilson
Red Dust Road won the Scottish Book of the Year Award and I was delighted to win copies of all the shortlisted books in a competition over on For Books Sake. (Just a week before the close of public voting on the winner, so I had to speed read all four books but I did get my vote in!).

Red Dust Road is Jackie Kay's account of growing up in Glasgow, black, lesbian and adopted. It also covers her search for her birth parents. It is a companion piece to her recent poetry collection Fiere (which I rev...more
This was a really heart warming and eye opening memoir. I have seen Jackie Kay reading her poetry live and it is really interesting to find out about the life behind the poet. She comes across as intelligent, kind and insightful but not at all pretentious.
I am often blind to the small sufferings people of other backgrounds go through on a day to day basis just because of the colour of their skin or their beliefs. Jackie does not portray herself as a victim despite her colourful life experiences...more
This was my first foray into digital audiobook, my first loan from the new library service. I had wanted to read Red Dust Road since it came out and I knew from hearing Jackie Kay on the radio that her reading would enhance the experience.

The book is a selected memoir of aspects of Jackie Kay's life (her working life as a writer is really only a backdrop) and moves back and forth (the timeline is a little clumsy) between her experiences growing up as a mixed race adoptee in a Communist family in...more
An excellent autobiography. Kay is a black, gay, adopted woman and made the decision (in adulthood) to trace her white Scottish mother and black Nigerian father. Her birth parents are not what she had expected (nor, what I as a reader, had hoped for, for Kay) and it struck me that for adopted people who don't have such brilliant adoptive parents, tracing your birth parents could be disappointing to the point of traumatic.

Kay's writing is excellent. The narrative jumps around in time, which at t...more
First of all, I liked the easy flow of Jackie Kay's writing. It came across as if she was just telling the story while sitting down with a cup of tea. There was no hint of trying to impress by stringing awkward sentences together. Secondly, Jackie Kay is funny and at times made me laugh out loud. I felt I could relate to her sense of humour. Perhaps the Scottish blood in me too!
I won't go into the details of how she got along with her biological father, although I will say that some parts made m...more
Poet and writer Jackie Kay's portrayal of her efforts to track down her Highland birth mother, and Nigerian birth father and her loving family life with her adoptive parents in Glasgow is one of the most enjoyable books I've read in a while. I read this after enjoying Pauline Black's autobiography, another black child adopted by white parents in Britain and it was interesting to read the different paths that take lives in the direction that they head off in.

I now need to go back and re-read Jac...more
Jackie Kay, true to her talents, writes a poetic account of her physical and emotional journey to discover her birth parents. With a birth mother of Scottish heritage and a father from a village in Nigeria, this is a journey of many contrasts. As expected the journey requires plenty of soul-searching and there is jubilation but also times of uncertainty which makes this such a compelling read. In many ways, while reading this book, it felt like getting to know new friends with moments of discove...more
Caroline Barron
Shortly before Jackie Kay flies to Nigeria to meet her birth father for the first time, she places a coin in the trunk of a tree and makes as wish: “I wish that everything will go well in Nigeria. I wish that my father will like me. I wish that I’ll return whole” (165).

Her wish isn’t granted to the letter and the journey is surprising, exhausting, disappointing and hilarious at times (born-again birth father: “Oh-oh, you mean you are a lesbian…which one of you is the man?” (104); Jackie: I don’t...more
Deborah Linker
Jackie Kay's search for her birth parents took us to foreign countries and inside interesting characters. I was amazed at how her adopted parents were such accepting, generous, and gentle people. Good writing, bits of humor, and getting know more about this authors life kept me turning the pages. While some memoirs can be a bit boring and too involved, Red Dust Road was not one of them. I truly enjoyed the book and would recommend it to friends.
I know what you're thinking, why read this so soon after reading Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? Two books by well-loved authors talking about their upbringing and adoption. Doesn't that invite such a direct comparison so soon upon one another? I'll tell you why I chose to read Red Dust Road now. Reading Why Be Happy, Winterson repeatedly describes being adopted as inherently embedded with loss, says things like "adopted children always blame themselves" and feel "rejected", "unwanted", a...more
I loved this book. My reading of it was enhanced by having heard the author read some of it so I could listen to her voice whilst reading it myself. JK had a happy, if unusual, upbringing by Communist adoptive parents just outside Glasgow. The story of her search for her birth parents is by turn hilarious and deeply moving.
Jackie Kay's autobiography is moving, funny, sad, joyous and highly entertaining. As I walked listening to the story she narrated herself, she began to feel like an old friend. She just sounds like someone I would like to know. A bundle of joy!
If you read only one book based on my recommendation, then make it this wonderful wonderful memoir.

Jackie Kay is a black, lesbian poet who was raised by her adoptive, communist parents in a small, predominantly white town in Scotland. This memoir covers her journey to find her biological parents. But that description does not adequately capture Jackie Kay’s warmth, wisdom and humor in taking on issues of identity, of nationality, of ethnicity and, most importantly, of what constitutes family. Th...more
Pauline Ross
I knew nothing about Jackie Kay before opening this book, so it was a bit of a leap in the dark. She writes poetry, it turns out, and has obviously attracted some attention with it because she has an MBE. But this book is not about her writing, it's about how she was adopted and came to find her natural parents. Not that there's much to say about that - they never really become three dimensional, glimpsed in rather fraught occasional meetings in their old age. But if the central focus of the boo...more
Susan Rose
What’s it about?: This is an unchronological non fiction memoir which details how the poet and writer Jackie Kay found her birth parents.

Jackie Kay was adopted by a couple of Scottish Communists, she has a happy childhood and a good upbringing Although she loves her parents as a child she can’t help fantasizing about what her birth parents might be like/ were they are. When she’s expecting her own child she decides to find out who they really are, this is the story of how through the years she...more
I received this book free from the Lichfield Literature Festival in 2012. Jackie Kay came to the Lichfield Festival to give a reading in the George Hotel. Details of the Festival held every October which is well worth a visit are at The book is meant to be passed on so I have left it at our holiday cottage in the English Lake District at Church View Cottage, Hallthwaites, Cumbria. This really is an excellent read and will restore your faith in humanity. Jackie's adopte...more
Dupsie Oriyomi
A wonderful story with a beautiful happy ending. Ms Kay has been one of those lucky people to have wonderful adoptive parents. Not many people get that much love in their lives, some people still don't get that much love from their biological parents.

Seeing as my own parents too are from nigeria, I identified with some of the language and customs as well as erratic behaviour and religious fanaticism that I have also notice and experienced when meeting some nigerians. Ms Kay's story really warmed...more
The autobiography of a lesbian scottish writer, adopted, getting in touch with her birth parents, the father Nigerian - a story certainly worth telling. And the entire book conveys a sense of urgengy: It's obvious Kay really needed to tell this, maybe to write it down in order to come to terms with it all. And the tracking of her father and her siblings is moving, the sometimes careless, sometimes cruel racism a black scottish gal encounters is expected, but not less angering... but all in all,...more
Absolutely adored this. Jackie writes in such a friendly, honest way, but the emotion she conveys is acute and exquisite. This book is a must-read for anyone, but especially those who have felt that 'windy gap' in their heart due to being separated, for whatever reason, from a parent. I adored this, perhaps even more than Trumpet.
Emma Glaisher
Would give 3.5 stars if I could. There is much to like here, Jackie and her parents sound like lovely people and it's good to read about someone learning about her history who is coming from a good place.

My only real reservation is the structure of the book. Not only does it jump around in time (with some typographic variation which isn't clear or helpful) but it will even, for instance, describe a meeting in 2003 in one chapter, and then describe the moments before the meeting several chapters...more
This is poet Jackie Kay's memoir of growing up as the adopted black child of white parents in Glasgow and of her search for her birth parents in Nigeria and the UK. Despite the potentially harrowing subject matter it is at times a funny book and is filled with love for her adoptive parents.

On a personal note I found it interesting as I lived in the same area of Glasgow until I was in my early teens so was able to picture the streets she was walking down and recognised some of the types of people...more
If you've ever heard Jackie Kay on the radio and been enchanted by her sing songy but serious Scottish accent then this book is a must. Her voice peals out from every page, and the intimate nature of the story made reading this book feel like a private experience between me and her. I loved it.

It tells the story of her tracing and building relationships with her birth parents, and all of the disappointments, triumphs and awkwardness that entailed. I read this while heavily pregnant and thinking...more
Barbara Green
I enjoyed reading Red Dust Road. Kay writes without sentiment about tracking down her birth parents and it would be fair to say she acknowledges the difficulties inherent in doing that.

Her story is an entertaining account of growing up in Glasgow as an outsider - adopted, black and lesbian. She is incredibly close to her adoptive parents who are idealistic communists and she never loses an opportunity to share her love of them with the reader.

It has something to say about nurture vs nature and...more
An excellent autobiography. Jackie Kay was clearly very lucky to have had brilliant adoptive parents and a good relationship with her adopted brother. Her birth parents both come across fairly badly. Despite the fact that she is successful in her own right & has left it many years to contact them, they both want to keep her existence secret and don't seem to have much, if any, sympathy for her. She treats them with sensitivity, but there are times when the reader just wants to shake them and...more
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Womankind Worldwi...: March 2013: Red Dust Road by Jackie Kay 51 180 Apr 02, 2013 12:46PM  
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Born in Glasgow in 1961 to a Scottish mother and a Nigerian father, Kay was adopted by a white couple, Helen and John Kay, as a baby. Brought up in Bishopbriggs, a Glasgow suburb, she has an older adopted brother, Maxwell as well as siblings by her adoptive parents.

Kay's adoptive father worked full-time for the Communist Party and stood for election as a Member of Parliament, and her adoptive moth...more
More about Jackie Kay...
Trumpet Wish I Was Here Adoption Papers Why Don't You Stop Talking: Stories Reality, Reality

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