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Red Dust Road Paperback – 4 Mar 2011

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Product details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; Main Market Ed. edition (4 Mar. 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0330451065
  • ISBN-13: 978-0330451062
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 2.1 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (69 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 22,271 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


'From its hilarious opening, it is apparent that [Kay's] memoir is a clear-eyed account of the push and pull between nature and nurture... the strength, humour and charm at the heart of this memoir are a tribute to the couple who made Kay never question her right to be happy' --Sunday Times

'Honest, human and sad... As much as it is a love letter to Africa, this memoir is also a love letter to [Jackie's adoptive parents], whose care and commitment made Kay who she is today. It is touching, full of strength and truth' --Independent on Sunday

'Once stood near Jackie Kay on a station platform and I chickened out of fanboying and telling her how awesome I thought she was and her book was, so this would be an opportunity to redress that Epic Fail. It's above all for her novel Trumpet that I want to offer fealty. I found it so intensely moving - I felt as if I was reading with something sitting on my chest. And there on page 186 is the description of an angry, confused man, relenting enough to nod and wink at the little boy watching him, fascinated, on the tube. He is rewarded with "a smile to die for". "Doesn't cost much, Colman thinks. Doesn't cost much to nod at a little geezer and make his fucking day." In an era when slanders about the supposed odiousness of human nature are routine, the kindness and love in that observation don't just make it beautiful; they make it important' --Guardian

`Red Dust Road is a terrific read worthy of all the bouquets bestowed on it. A special treat was her own inimitable interpretation on Radio 4' --Herald

Book Description

From the moment when, as a little girl, she realizes that her skin is a different colour from that of her beloved mum and dad, to the tracing and finding of her birth parents, her Highland mother and Nigerian father, the journey that Jackie Kay undertakes in Red Dust Road is full of unexpected twists, turns and deep emotions. In a book shining with warmth, humour and compassion, she discovers that inheritance is about much more than genes: that we are shaped by songs as much as by cells, and that our internal landscapes are as important as those through which we move. Taking the reader from Glasgow to Lagos and beyond, Red Dust Road is revelatory, redemptive and courageous, unique in its voice and universal in its reach. It is a heart-stopping story of parents and siblings, friends and strangers, belonging and beliefs, biology and destiny, and love. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

30 of 30 people found the following review helpful By G. E. Harrison TOP 500 REVIEWER on 16 July 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I'd never heard of Jackie Kay before and didn't know anything about this book apart from the little that is said on the book jacket. I thought that the book starting with the meeting with her birth father was a bit clunky and I would have preferred that the book had started with the account of her childhood with her (wonderful) adoptive parents and brother but I guess that this way quickly established the deep wound at the centre of her life. With the account of her childhood I quickly got into the book and I began to cry and I didn't really stop throughout the whole book! I found it all very, very emotional - like a supercharged episode of the BBC series "Who do you think you are" - although I have never personally experienced anything like this myself. However, I did empathise with the accounts of Jackie's meetings with her birth mother who, like my own mother, was developing dementia (more crying).

I thought the book was beautifully written, I enjoyed the jumps in time and space - from Glasgow to Nigeria, from Aberdeen to Milton Keynes - which seemed to flow naturally and replicate the haphazard nature of memory. And I got a real sense of all these places, particularly Nigeria (the red dust road of the title). I thought that this was an amazingly powerful book, full of warmth and very funny but I'm really glad to have finished it so I can finally stop bloody crying!
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Mr. P. S. Fenwick on 18 Jun. 2010
Format: Hardcover
RED DUST ROAD, both laugh-out-loud and deeply moving, is a delight - I read it in one sitting. The opening pages are brilliant. It is a book that reminds you that family is always made, not merely manufactured biologically, and - very rarely - a work of literature about adoption that is never bleak, but instead uplifting, wonderfully nuanced, and deeply rewarding to read. I loved it.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Lydia Wilson on 18 Jun. 2010
Format: Hardcover
I read this book because of the beautiful and funny extract that was printed last week in the Observer; it turned out that the extract itself was to some extent summarised, and the chapter it was taken from is even more moving and indeed even funnier. The scene was Jackie's first meeting, surreal and difficult, with her birth father in Nigeria. He turns out to be born-again Christian and spends two hours blessing her - gruelling for both of them. Jackie's mum's response to the episode was: "eh did we save you!": as we see throughout the book, this is typical of the warmth and humour of her adoptive parents, attributes they have obviously passed onto Jackie and which gleams through her prose.

The interweaving of memories from different ages and stages has the effect of biography by theme - a brave and unusual choice as it is harder than a typical chronological story, but, because it is done so very deftly, it creates a story far more compelling than a more usual autobiography.

It never feels like an appeal to our sympathy, or the cry of a victim, despite the extraordinary range of difficulties Jackie faced at one point or another (summed up by her experience of a reading in a school where "anyone interested in adoption, racism or sexuality talk to Jackie..."). Instead, we are shown an array of scenes, difficult and funny, telling and warm, through her unfailingly luminous and limpid prose, from her childhood in Glasgow with communist parents, to meeting both birth parents (astonishingly, both born-again Christians), via pictures of a working poet's life. Stunning, just as the Observer extract promised.
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33 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Gabrielle O on 18 Jun. 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I just don't understand how anyone could give this book fewer than the full five stars! For me, this was one of the best books I've ever read - thought-provoking, hilarious, sad and beautiful in turn. I have already lent it to my best friend, bought a copy for my husband, and recommended it to other friends.

It's an engaging and deeply moving read - and it starts brilliantly by describing Jackie's first meeting with her biological father, a born-again Christian and preacher in Nigeria. At various points while reading this I laughed out loud (including while on the underground with people looking at me and thinking I must be mad - but it really was side-splittingly funny) and was also moved to tears.

This is non-fiction at its rawest - Jackie Kay's autobiographical writing is both unflinchingly genuine and beautifully written. She is a very appealing, likeable narrator, which makes it even harder to read of her experiences of rejection and prejudice - although these experiences aren't recounted with self-pity at all. Kay's memories are woven together thematically, so the book does jump around a bit chronologically, but it's very compelling in terms of how it builds up these themes in rich layers waiting to be dug into when Kay meets her birth parents.

This is not just a book about adoption (though obviously that forms its starting point) but about the whole experience of growing up, and about the nuances of growing up as a girl, as a lesbian and as somebody of mixed race. So I know it is not just about one thing, and that may make it less appealing to some readers. But personally I felt this really worked for me.
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