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Friday, 3 February 2012

Book Review: Red Dust Road by Jackie Kay

Red Dust Road is Jackie Kay's memoir about her journey to discover her birth parents. It could easily be a boring run-of-the-mill tale but the unique situation and Kay's endearing way of examining events makes it something very special indeed. Born to a Scottish mother and a Nigerian father, Kay was adopted by a white couple in the 1960s and eventually decided to track down her birth parents while pregnant with her own son. I've wanted to read this since I heard Kay read an extract from it in 2010 and on my last trip to London I managed to pick up a copy signed by Kay herself. That'll induce me to never loan it out!

I don't want to say too much about Kay's journey because I'd love you to read the book. However, I will say that there are several scenes that stick in the memory afterwards - moments aching with bitterness but also fundamental honesty. I found myself marvelling at how Kay could open up these wounds to the public but then I realised the open air was probably a good way of healing them. Her story is both heartbreaking and difficult at times but - and this is important - it reaffirms the family she already had before she set out to find her birth parents. It's hardly a happily-ever-after type of adoption story, yet that's what makes it so touching.

Most of all, it's an entertaining book. The humour that permeated Jackie Kay's demeanour when I saw her in Sheffield is evident on almost every page of this book. It's that humanity that struck me most of all. An excellent memoir, and one I'd certainly recommend.

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