"The Adoption Papers" by Jackie Kay.

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The Adoption Papers

The story of Jackie Kay's life is as fascinating and complex as her literary works. The comparison is significant because several of Kay's pieces spring from her biography and they are all concerned with the intricate nature of identity. Kay's father was a black Nigerian visiting Edinburgh when he met Kay's white Scottish mother. After he returned to Nigeria, the mother discovered she was pregnant and decided to give up the child. Kay was then adopted by a white Glaswegian couple with a strong commitment to radical politics. As Kay grew up she also began to identify herself as lesbian.

Kay's writings reject easy platitudes and challenge readers to reject normative ideas of racial, sexual, and national identity.
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The birth mother has also experienced racism and talks of it with experience and ease shown through the flowing poetic imagery used to describe it. At the same time, the daughter conveys the questioning of self undergone by the adopted.

The poem emphasizes the idea that the birth tie is not a condition of authenticity and that "all this umbilical knot business is nonsense".

The use of multiple voices in "The Adoption Papers" produces a powerful effect, generating empathy for all the characters even as, or because their identities are shown to be uncertain, constantly changing, and often dependent upon the perspectives of others. For example, the adoptive mother is anxious to hide signs of her radicalism, her Marxism, and work for the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, lest the adopting agency regard them as the marks of unfit parents. Meanwhile the birth mother wrestles with her thoughts about giving away the child. Most prominent are the ruminations of the daughter and adoptive mother as they ponder what counts as a "real mammy". As the daughter experiences doubts about who she is, the mother must wonder if the process of adoption can identify her as a true mother. As the title of the poem, "The Adoption Papers" indicates, identity can largely be a matter of paperwork, of what is found on paper not in the flesh. The birth mother signs away her role as mother - "my name signed on a dotted line" - and the

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