How much of our gender shows in the way we act, dress, move, speak? How much comes from others’ perceptions? How many of our life choices are constrained by sexism and racism? As I read Jackie Kay’s novel "Trumpet," these questions swirled in my head.

Joss Moody is born female in a small town in Scotland in the 1950’s. Moving to Glasgow and then London to live as a man, Joss, who is black, plays jazz trumpet in night clubs, falls in love with and marries a white woman, and adopts a black son. Becoming more well-known, traveling the world and releasing hit albums, Joss keeps the secret and so does his wife Millie. Like the real-life Billy Tipton, the jazz pianist who lived as a man, Joss’ gender wasn’t discovered until she died.

Jackie Kay tells Joss’ story from many points of view. His wife Millie is hounded by paparazzi after her husband’s death; she longs to be considered “an ordinary widow,” to get “respect, not prurience.” The doctor who examines Joss’ body unwraps the chest bandages, feeling all the while “as if she was removing skin.” The undertaker who undresses the body “saw a man turn into a woman before his very eyes.”

Read more from this review of "Trumpet" by Jan Hardy, Cataloging Specialist on the Back in the Stacks Blog.


News category: Search & Find