sunnuntai 3. huhtikuuta 2011

Jackie Kay: Trumpet

Jackie Kay: Trumpet

This is the first novel I have read by Kay, but after this, I'm definitely going to search all the nearby libraries for more. A touching, powerful novel, it's no wonder it has won the Guardian Fiction Prize. Kay is a Scottish author, who has herself been adopted and has lived as a coloured person in the UK. Well, she still does, but what I meant to say is that she seems to have taken many of the themes of this book from her own life.

Trumpet is mostly set in London in 1997. It has several narrators, and they all think about their relationship with Joss Moody, a jazz trumpeter. Moody has been living all his adul life as a man, but was born as a girl in Scotland. His parents (as Kay's in real life) were a black man and a white woman, and he identifies as a Scott, but seems to also have passed on to his son a certain feeling of non-belonging because of their colour of skin. The novel handles the "race" issue mainly through the narration of Moody's son, Colman. He is adopted, but apparently his biological parents were also a black person and a white person. For Colman, the prejudiges of people seem to act as a reason to be angry at the world.

Gender and gender identity are the main themes of the book. The novel starts when Joss Moody has died, and his body is discovered to be female by a doctor and an undertaker. Moody has been a popular musician, so the issue becomes widely discussed in the media. There is a book being written, too many reporters for Moody's wife to stay at home, and visits to old school friends who knew Moody as a girl.

The characters each take their own view of Moody, his life and his gender. His wife, Millie Moody, mostly tells the story of their past; how they met, fell in love, lived their lives together. To her, Joss Moody just had a body that was in some ways different from other men's bodies. Perhaps the only thing I would critizise about the novel is the way Millie and Joss's relationship is portrayed as perfect. On the other hand, the novel handles so much negative emotions, that the happines of their relationship is needed to balance it out. Millie's narration is beautiful and her saddness feels very real.

Millie and Joss's son, Coleman doesn't know about his father's sex before the funeral director tells him. Colmans narration is full of memories, but usually they appear to him in a different light than before his father's death. He has (as many boys, I believe) partly constructed his masculinity, manliness, on the image of his father as a man, and the revelation that he was born as a girl, isn't an easy one to handle. Colman is in dialogue with himself, his memories, a reporter, and the image of his father, and tries to find his place as a black man, son of Joss Moody, in the society.

An interesting thing to a foreign reader was how the use of pronouns could betray so much of how people thought. When speaking about Joss, Millie and Colman say "he", but the reporter (who is portrayed as the "evil person" in the novel) says "she". This would be very hard to translate into Finnish, because we only have one pronoun for all humans, it is not gender specific. The repetition of words "man" and "woman" would seem comical, it would make the text very pointing and stiff.

I loved this novel. It was beautiful, came close to the reader emotionally and introduced several characters whose thoughts I really wanted to read, and could.

British Book Challenge: The novel was set in Britain, London and Scotland mostly. I think the society it described was more Western than only British, the attitudes towards sex and gender seem to me similar to those in the Finnish society in the late 1990s.

GLBT Challenge: Gender was definitely a major theme in this novel. In the Wikipedia article of Trumpet the writer suggests that "Joss Moody's trumpet serves as an equalizer of identity. The character Joss Moody is not a man or a woman, or a husband or a father. He is a trumpet player. The title of the novel gives his identity the opportunity to be that simple." (So sorry for refering to Wikipedia, but that caught my eye.) I disagree with the writer, and because we are talking about a fictional character, I feel I can, as a reader, make interpretations of his gender identity. Joss Moody definitely wanted to "pass" as a man. Nothing in the book suggests that he questioned his identity as a man, or that he practiced gender fuck/blending/bending/call-it-what-you-will. It might be due to the society he lived in, but in the novel his wife states that he never did anything feminine expect comb her hair. (I will find the excact quote if someone insists.) Although femininity and masculinity do not equal to woman and man, Joss Moody lived his life as a man, and because of that I disagree with the honourable Wikipedia writer and call Joss Moody a man.

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