Red Dust Road, By Jackie Kay And My Brother, By Jamaica Kincaid

1763 words - 8 pages

Jackie Kay, born on November 9, 1961 in Edinburgh, Scotland, is a poet, novelist and writer of short stories. She is most noted for her novel Trumpet, which won the Guardian Fiction Prize in 1998. Her 2010 memoir, Red Dust Road, which won the 2011 Scottish Mortgage Investment Trust Book of the Year Award and was shortlisted for the 2011 PEN/Ackerley Prize is a funny but very touching tale that recounts Kay’s quest for her family. The book later reveals that she spends her whole life searching for something that is already right in front of her, family. Kay, an adopted biracial child of white communist parents in Glasgow is very eager to meet her biological father, Jonathan O., a Nigerian ...view middle of the document...

Kay is insistent that this couple is in fact her parents, in everything except heredity. Both Helen and John prevent Jackie from identifying herself as someone who was rejected as a child. Helen would say to her, “We chose you: you are special. Other people had to take what they got, but we chose you” (Kay 43).
In an interview conducted by Helen Brown, Kay expresses that she is a girl who wants to be accepted for who she is and not merely for her skin color, but often times the child is made to feel her racial difference by casual, caustic and institutional racism. Red Dust Road reveals that Kay was given up for adoption due to racism. Her biological father, a black man, was deemed unacceptable in the Scottish Highlands. The book is filled with questions about inheritance and belonging and also reveals the child who knows that “part of me came from Africa, part of me was foreign to myself” (Kay, interview). Myths and stereotypes of Britain taught in school played a major role in Kay’s vision of Africa. Not all but many of these stereotypes exist today:
African people lived in mud huts in appalling poverty, wore grass skirts and tribal makeup, were primitive, unsophisticated. Something about sex was hinted at but not spoken (Big penises, whisper, whisper.) Africans could dance, they had natural rhythm. The people were very dark. Wild savages. When they were born they were put into an oven to make them darker so that their skin did not burn in the sun. There were bongo drums in Africa, witch doctors and lots of chanting and humming and squealing. Superstition was big in Africa. African people were not logical thinkers. African people were irrational, hot-tempered. African people were more like stories and myths than rational, human beings (Kay 39).
In terms of Kay’s writing style I made note that a good amount of the dialogues in the book is written in the vernacular. This allows the reader to get more in touch with Kay’s Scottish culture and makes it that more personal. For example, “You’re a stranger on her doorstep. Naebody likes strangers on their doorsteps least of all folk with something to hide,” says her adoptive dad (28). Hearing the characters speak in their Scots English makes the reader feel as if they too are in Scotland with Kay and her family. Her word choice is very particular in the sense that it paints an image of what is being said or what is going on in that specific chapter. A lot of wordplay is scattered throughout the book. For instance, “Pages of the Bible are flying around the room like hummingbirds” (6) and again “Then he starts up again, more whirling and twirling ... A whole big wad of the Bible rolls out if his mouth like ectoplasm” (7), both of which represent similes. I also noted that when someone is speaking to Kay she repeats the phrase and then interchanges between a hypnotic trance (often represented as a reflection) and her regular state.
As we go on from chapter to chapter I grow aware of several different...

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