Biography of Jackie Kay

Jackie Kay is a Nigerian-Scottish poet and novelist, perhaps best known for the novel Trumpet.

She was born in Edinburgh to a Scottish mother and Nigerian father on November 9th, 1961, but was adopted by a white couple in Glasgow (she commented once, “I still have Scottish people asking me where I’m from. They won’t actually hear my voice, because they’re too busy seeing my face”). She described herself as a child thusly: “I was quite chatty, loquacious. I learnt that word early . . . it felt good because it kind of covered it up; I could say, ‘I’m loquacious,’ and it sounded better than saying, ‘I’m a bletherer from Hell!’ I was quite political. I had strong ideas about apartheid and poverty, and I used to go on a lot of marches and I wrote a lot of political poetry when I was younger and I used to organise garden fetes and raise money for leprosy and things like that . . . I was very imaginative, I suppose, I had a big imagination . . . ”

While she initially thought she might pursue acting, she began writing poetry and was heartened when one of her teachers sent some of her poems to Alasdair Gray, who encouraged her to pursue her writing. Kay studied English at the University of Stirling and then moved to London where she worked in a variety of places as she wrote.

Her works include, among others, The Adoption Papers (1991), a sequence of poems; Trumpet (1998); Other Lovers (1993) and Off Colour, two more collections of poems; Strawgirl (2002), a children’s novel about being different; Why Don’t You Stop Talking (2002), a collection of short stories; Red Dust Road (2010), a memoir; The Lamplighter (2008), a dramatized poem broadcast on the BBC. She has stated that her work is very personal: “All writers draw on their own experience and a lot of my experience has been heightened.”

Kay has received the Saltire First Book Award, the Scottish Arts Council Book Award, the Somerset Maugham Award, and the Guardian Fiction Prize. In 2006 she was awarded an MBE for services to literatures; in 2014 she was appointed Chancellor of the University of Salford (where she had been the “Writer in Residence” since 2015); and in March 2016 she was appointed as the Makar, the National Poet, for Scotland for a five-year term.

She currently lives in Manchester and is Professor of Creative Writing at Newcastle University. She has a son, Matthew, whose father is writer Fred D’Aguiar. She is openly lesbian and was in a long relationship with poet Carol Ann Duffy.

Study Guides on Works by Jackie Kay

Red Dust Road is an autobiographical novel by Scottish author Jackie Kay which tells the story of her twenty-year search for her birth parents, and her quest to be acknowledged by them both as their biological child. The book opens in the Nicon...

Trumpet is a novel written by Jackie Kay in 1998. It was the first novel she wrote, and it won the 1998 Guardian Fiction Prize.

Trumpet begins with the death of Joss Moody, a highly successful jazz musician, and documents the different reactions...