Red Dust Road

By  Jackie Kay

About the Book

There is a moment when, as a little girl, Jackie Kay realizes that her skin is a different colour from that of her beloved mum and dad. Later in life, and pregnant with her own son, she decides to trace her birth parents. On a journey full of unexpected twists, turns and deep emotions she discovers that inheritance is about much more than genes: that we are shaped by songs as much as by cells, and that what triumphs, ultimately, is love.

‘If you like memoirs that are warmed by humour and love, read Red Dust Road’ Miranda Seymour, Daily Telegraph, ‘Books of the Year’

‘Wonderful, humane . . . a book with resolution, determination and honesty’ Scotland on Sunday

‘Like the best memoirs, this one is written with novelistic and poetic flair. Pitch-perfect, page-turning’ Independent

‘A lovely book, thoughtful and high-spirited, registering loss and love alike’ Jeanette Winterson, Guardian, ‘Books of the Year’

What Jackie Kay thinks about World Book Night

"World Book night strips everything away to the bare essential: the good hearted feeling of a book in your hand, a companion by your side, the best of friends on your road through life. A good book nourishes the soul and gladdens the heart. It lifts you and makes things seem possible that didn't seem possible before. I am so happy that Red Dust Road has been chosen as one of the twenty books to be passed hand to hand, word to mouth, on the road."

What we thinkJackie Kay Pic copy

“Jackie Kay is one of our greatest poets and this is, quite simply, her story. Of growing up, of wanting to know where we come from, who we are, and of what happens when we discover the truth. Beautiful and brilliant.”


Spotlight on...

Often memoirs are fascinating for the things they tell you that you really don't expect to learn. Jackie Kay is one of our greatest poets so I knew when I read Red Dust Road that the words would sing from the page and I wasn't disappointed. Like the very best poetry it is beautifully written but incredibly easy to read and the words just carry you along pitch perfectly. But the book isn't about poetry or being a poet, it's not even, once you get down to it, about adoption, race, growing up in Glasgow, communism, sexuality or any of the things that have made up Jackie's life. Its about love, and not even in the lovey-dovey romantic way, it's about love between parents and children, brothers and sisters, for one's fellow man, for humanity, for life. And it is, of course, about that journey we all take, whether our roads are red dust, smoothly tarmacked, winding or straight.

Maybe I was feeling sentimental because I read it at Christmas. Or maybe writing this now on the back of some really fascinating research I've been looking at about how much better for us reading great writers than self-help books really is, has slightly skewed how I feel. Whatever it was I felt incredibly enriched and uplifted by reading about Jackie's life - and apart from being a woman and loving books and poetry there is nothing we share in common. But maybe it is that very fact that can make memoirs so powerful. The ability to walk in someone else's shoes, to see the world as they do for a few hundred pages and to exercise our empathy and understanding to such a degree.
It's also what makes it a great choice for World Book Night. There are many who are choosing to give it to adults and teens who share some life experiences with Jackie but regardless of your intended receivers backgrounds, it is a great, great book, over-brimming with hope and love.
And in a cold, dark January I don't think there's anything I can recommend more highly.

Julia Kingsford, World Book Night Chief Executive



Also by Jackie Kay

Poetry: The Lamplighter (2007), Red Cherry Red (2007), Darling (2007), Maw Broon Monologues (2009) (shortlisted for the Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry)

Fiction: Why Don't You Stop Talking, Trumpet, Wish I Was Here

Author biography

Jackie Kay was born in Edinburgh. She is a poet, novelist and writer of short stories and has enjoyed great acclaim for her work for both adults and children. Her novel Trumpet won the Guardian Fiction Prize, and she has published two collections of stories with Picador, Why Don’t You Stop Talking and Wish I Was Here. She teaches at Newcastle University and lives in Manchester.


On World Book Night

When Jamie Byng told me about World Book Night, I was amazed not only by its magnitude but by its simplicity. The love of writing, the love of reading – these are huge gifts. To be able give someone else a book you treasure widens the gift circle. I was thrilled to be asked to support World Book Night, and doubly thrilled that The Blind Assassin was chosen to help launch it. Long may its voyage be!

Margaret Atwood

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