Jackie Kay (2002 [2011]) Why Don’t You Stop Talking.

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I’m one of the few that reads short stories. They don’t sell. There are exceptions such as Alice Munro, Jhumpa Lahari and George Saunders. Poets sell even less of their work than short-story writers, but usually make the best writers. I like Jackie Kay’s autobiographical writing and I admire her parents, who I’ve met on the page. They’re the kind of people that make the world a better place. But for all her awards and glitz and glamour I found this collection a bit boring. The first story in the collection ‘Shark! Shark!’ to me read like one of Billy Connelly’s jokes. If you’re so afraid of sharks just don’t go in the water. Nobody’s shoving you. So the second story ‘Big Milk’ about a different kind of fixation, a lover’s breast fixation…ho-hum. I never went in the water. I quite liked ‘Married Women.’ Possibly, the best story in the collection is ‘Out of Hand’.

Fifty years ago, hand over heart. Rose McGuire Roberts stepped off the Windrush, with her dab hands.

Britain, then as now, wasn’t ready for her. We hated immigrants, especially black immigrants. Black women immigrants that think they are something. Yes, Rose remembers how it was, the hostility, the monkey noises, the night-shifts at hospital nobody else wanted to do. All the worst jobs in the hospital given to the black woman, who should be grateful. Yeh, that strikes a note. That resonates with me. As all good stories must. Perhaps there are some stories in this collection you will appreciate in a way I could not.

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