The Adoption Papers by Jackie Kay
Bloodaxe Books (ebook), 2011
64 Pages

Scottish Poetry Library

Amazon (UK)

I borrowed this from my library and read it on my Kobo.

I always wanted to give birth
do that incredible natural thing
that women do – I nearly broke down
when I heard we couldn’t
and then my man said
well there’s always adoption
(we didn’t have test tubes and the rest then)
even in the early sixties there was
something scandalous about adopting,
telling the world your secret failure
who knew what it would turn out to be

The Adoption Papers tells Kay’s story of being born to a white mother and a Nigerian father and adopted by a white couple. The poems explore the viewpoints of the daughter, the birth mother and the adopted mother. Each voice uses a different text style. This edition also includes a bonus selection of poems.

I’ve been a fan of Jackie Kay’s for years. I’ve read extracts from The Adoption Papers in various collections and have always wanted to read the whole thing. I’ve read two collections of her short fiction and really enjoyed it. I’ve also read her memoir, Red Dust Road which deals with going to meet her biological father in Nigeria and is a companion piece to The Adoption Papers.

I found the poems in The Adoption Papers really enjoyable. I found the different texts used for each voice confusing at first but soon got the hang of it. What impressed is how much information Kay is able to convey in a few lines. She manages to condense a whole novel in a few stanzas. There were a few moments when I felt a lump in my throat. The Adoption Papers makes very emotional reading. The bonus poems included were also really enjoyable. Parts of The Adoption Papers have been adapted for stage. The format uses would work really well as a play or a radio drama.




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