Wednesday, October 15, 2008


This is a wonderful book by the black Scottish (lesbian?) adopted writer Jackie Kay, who grew up just over the water from us (Dunoon way?). I would not normally go into someone's private affairs this much, but the book is about a black Scottish transsexual trumpeter, who gets married and adopts a son - some parallels there....As it happens, the trumpeter, Joss Moody, comes from Greenock, where another black Scottish guy I know was born...(port city, you know).

Joss Moody does not get much of a speaking part in this book, given that he is dead and only lives on in people's memories. The thing is that it is only when he dies that most people find out that in fact Joss Moody was a woman. The doctor who comes to sign the death certificate (Moody hated doctors and hospitals, so died at home) finds some bandages around his chest, and under them discovers some perfectly formed breasts - then she looks down his body....; the undertaker, the lovely Bangladeshi registrar, the guy's son, all find out something new about Joss. Then it hits the media and his wife flees the marital home to a wee cottage in Scotland.

The story is lovingly told in a series of little vignettes, from different points of view - and paints extremely sympathetic pictures of all who are involved in dealing with this situation. Even the son, who initially agrees with a tabloid journalist in 'telling it how it was' (how can he, seeing he thought his father was a man) and who at first comes across a bit as an arse (though he perhaps has reason to be angry), eventually becomes quite likeable. The author's descriptions of Moody's trumpet playing are awesome - I wish I could write reviews like this!

There are some logic gaps, though - how could Moody get married as a man? Even in 1955 I am sure they would have needed his birth certificate (Josephine Moore). His mother, who is finally tracked down by her grandson, lives in a sheltered housing scheme in Greenock called 'Larch Grove'. In Scotland, in public housing a name like that? I don't think so - 'Rankin Court' or something like that would have been more appropriate.  It never becomes clear what caused Moody to live as a man - childhood photos show him in a dress (but he was born in 1927, different times, different place).

The first page of the book was a bit hard, a bit irrational - but it was the widow's first days of widowhood, while the media were camped outside her house - this reflected her despair. But I am glad I persevered; it really is a wonderful, wonderful book - especially also with the references to places in Scotland I know and love! Must look out for more books by this author!