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Read of the Week: Red Dust Road by Jackie Kay

Written by The Reader, 18th October 2017

A brand spanking new Read of the Week from our Finance and People Assistant Kate who has chosen Red Dust Road by Jackie Kay.

Jackie Kay takes us on a heart-warming, funny and moving journey in her autobiographical account of tracing and meeting her birth parents; her Highland mother and Nigerian father and the prejudice she faced growing up in Scotland with her adoptive, white parents.

The book jumps in time and space, from Glasgow to Nigeria where she first meets her biological father in a hotel and instantly she becomes aware of the physical similarities and the intrinsic differences the pair have, which I believe shapes the book throughout. She shows us the importance of love and acceptance, something in which she feels she struggles to get from her biological mother and father, but receives in abundance from her Scottish parents.

The whole feel to the book is that Jackie is trying her best to connect to her biological roots to get to know Jonathan, Elizabeth and her brothers and sisters as if she feels like part of her is missing. In doing her best to track them down and unite it causes Jackie pain and suffering along the way, questioning and doubting her views on herself, with her biological father Jonathan treating her as part of his sinful past, being a born again Christian.

“I realise with a fresh horror that Jonathan is seeing me as the sin… I am sitting here, evidence of his sinful past, but I am the sinner, the live embodiment of his sin. He’s moved on now, he’s a clean man, a man of glory and of God.”

I think this book is great for showing how much we are shaped not only by our DNA but what we inherit from our family; songs, stories and experiences. It makes you think about what you appreciate and value in your own life, especially the little things you can often take for granted. We see the kindness that her adoptive parents give her and how much she treasures their relationships and how she wouldn’t change a thing.

“I drift off trying to imagine this other life, the one that I’d have had, had I been placed on the red dust road less travelled by, the one where I’d have been going to Nzagha every Christmas since I was born. It’s alarming, the other life, It thrills and scares me in equal measure because I would never wanted to be without my mum and dad, John and Helen, and can’t imagine my life without them. It pains me to imagine that.”

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