Poet & Novelist
Jackie Kay MBE is an award-winning Scottish poet and novelist.
Jackie Kay was born in Edinburgh in 1961 to a Scottish mother and a Nigerian father. She was adopted as a baby by a white Scottish couple, Helen and John Kay, and grew up in Bishopbriggs, a suburb of Glasgow, in a 1950s-built Glasgow housing estate in a small Wimpey house, which her adoptive parents had bought new in 1957. They adopted Kay in 1961 having already adopted Jackie's brother, Maxwell, about two years earlier. Jackie and Maxwell also have siblings who were brought up by their biological parents. Her adoptive father worked for the Communist Party full-time and stood for Member of Parliament, and her adoptive mother was the Scottish secretary of Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. In August 2007, Jackie Kay was the subject of the fourth episode of The House I Grew Up In, in which she talked about her childhood.
Initially harbouring ambitions to be an actress, she decided to concentrate on writing after Alasdair Gray, a Scottish artist and writer, read her poetry and told her that writing was what she should be doing. She studied English at the University of Stirling and her first book of poetry, the partially autobiographical The Adoption Papers, was published in 1991 and won the Saltire Society Scottish First Book Award. Her other awards include the 1994 Somerset Maugham Award for Other Lovers, and the Guardian First Book Award Fiction Prize for Trumpet, based on the life of American jazz musician Billy Tipton, born Dorothy Tipton, who lived as a man for the last fifty years of his life.
She writes extensively for stage (in 1988 her play Twice Over was the first by a Black writer to be produced by Gay Sweatshop Theatre Group), screen and for children. Her drama The Lamplighter is an exploration of the Atlantic slave trade. It was broadcast on BBC Radio 3 in March 200 and published in poem form in 2008.
In 2010 she published Red Dust Road, an account of her search for her natural parents. Her biological parents met when her father was a student at Aberdeen University and her mother was a nurse.
Jackie Kay was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) on 17 June 2006. She is currently Professor of Creative Writing at Newcastle University, and Cultural Fellow at Glasgow Caledonian University. Kay lives in Manchester. She took part in the Bush Theatre's 2011 project Sixty-Six Books, with a piece based upon a chapter of the King James Bible.
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