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Jackie Kay was born in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1961 to a Scottish mother and a Nigerian father. She was adopted by a white couple at birth and was brought up in Glasgow, studying at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama and Stirling University where she read English.

The experience of being adopted by and growing up withing a white family inspired her first collection of poetry, The Adoption Papers (1991). The poems deal with an adopted child's search for a cultural identity and are told through three different voices: an adoptive mother, a birth mother and a daughter. The collection won a Scottish Arts Council Book Award, the Saltire Society Scottish First Book of the Year Award and a commendation by the Forward Poetry Prize judges in 1992.

Biography

Jackie Kay was born in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1961 to a Scottish mother and a Nigerian father. She was adopted by a white couple at birth and was brought up in Glasgow, studying at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama and Stirling University where she read English.

The experience of being adopted by and growing up withing a white family inspired her first collection of poetry, The Adoption Papers (1991). The poems deal with an adopted child's search for a cultural identity and are told through three different voices: an adoptive mother, a birth mother and a daughter. The collection kay_jackiewon a Scottish Arts Council Book Award, the Saltire Society Scottish First Book of the Year Award and a commendation by the Forward Poetry Prize judges in 1992.

The poems in Other Lovers (1993) explore the role and power of language, inspired and influenced by the history of Afro-Caribbean people, the story of a search for identity grounded in the experience of slavery. The collection includes a sequence of poems about the blues-singer Bessie Smith. Off Colour (1998) explores themes of sickness, health and disease through personal experience and metaphor. Her poems have appeared in many anthologies, and she has written widely for stage and television.

Her first novel, Trumpet, published in 1998, was awarded the Guardian Fiction Prize and was shortlisted for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. Inspired by the life of musician Billy Tipton, the novel tells the story of Scottish jazz trumpeter Joss Moody whose death revealed that he was, in fact, a woman. Kay develops the narrative through the voices of Moody's wife, his adopted son and a journalist from a tabloid newspaper. Her books, Why Don't You Stop Talking (2002) and Wish I Was Here (2006), are collections of short stories, and she has also published a novel for children, Strawgirl (2002). Her collection of poetry for children, Red, Cherry Red (2007) won the 2008 CLPE Poetry Award.

Her novella, Sonata, was published in 2006; her book of poems Darling: New and Selected Poems in2007; and her dramatised poem, The Lamplighter, in 2008.

Jackie Kay lives in Manchester. In 2006, she was awarded an MBE for services to literature.

Bibliography

A Dangerous Knowing: Four Black Women Poets   Sheba, 1984

Chiaroscuro   Methuen, 1986

Gay Sweatshop: Four Plays and a Company   (includes 'Twice Over')   Methuen, 1989

Kay, Agard, D'Aguiar, Berry   (audio-cassette)   Bluefoot Cassette (British Library National Sound Archive), 1990

That Distance Apart   Turret, 1991

The Adoption Papers   Bloodaxe, 1991

Twice Through the Heart   English National Opera, 1991

Two's Company   Blackie, 1992

Other Lovers   Bloodaxe, 1993

Hearsay: Performance Poems Plus   (audio-cassette)   57 Production, 1994

Three Has Gone   Blackie, 1994

Penguin Modern Poets 8   (Merle Collins, Jackie Kay and Grace Nichols)   Penguin, 1996

Bessie Smith   Absolute, 1997

Off Colour   Bloodaxe, 1998

Teeth   (audio-cassette)   57 Production, 1998

Trumpet   Picador, 1998

The Frog Who Dreamed She was an Opera Singer   Bloomsbury, 1999

Strawgirl   Macmillan, 2002

Why Don't You Stop Talking   Picador, 2002

International Connections: New Plays for Young People   (contributor)   Faber and Faber, 2003

Life Mask   Bloodaxe, 2005

Sonata   Picador, 2006

Wish I Was Here   Picador, 2006

Darling: New and Selected Poems   Bloodaxe, 2007

Red, Cherry Red   Bloomsbury, 2007

The Lamplighter   Bloodaxe, 2008

Prizes and awards

1991   Eric Gregory Award

1992   Forward Poetry Prize (commendation)   The Adoption Papers

1992   Saltire Society Scottish First Book of the Year Award   The Adoption Papers

1992   Scottish Arts Council Book Award   The Adoption Papers

1993   Signal Poetry Award   Two's Company

1994   Somerset Maugham Award   Other Lovers

1998   Guardian Fiction Prize   Trumpet

1999   Signal Poetry Award   The Frog Who Dreamed She was an Opera Singer

2000   Authors' Club First Novel Award   Trumpet

2000   International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award   (shortlist)   Trumpet

2003   Cholmondeley Award

2006   MBE

2007   British Book Awards Decibel Writer of the Year   Wish I Was Here

2007   National Short Story Competition   (shortlist - 'How To Get Away With Suicide')

2008   CLPE Poetry Award   Red, Cherry Red

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