Jackie Kay with Brit Bennett

By 2 p.m. Seattle time, a reader/viewer could have themself quite a day - with author Marwa al-Sabouni in Homs, Syria on the cities we live in, followed by esteemed poet/fiction writer Jackie Kay, perhaps in northern England, on the life of blues singer Bessie Smith, to be joined in conversation by Brit Bennett, quite possibly in Los Angeles. This 1 p.m. program we are quite excited to be hosting as it virtually brings one of the UK’s most cherished and accomplished writers in Jackie Kay - who visited Elliott Bay back in the day with her fabulous novel, Trumpet. This time it’s virtual, and it’s for her enthralling study of Bessie Smith, Bessie Smith: A Poet’s Biography of a Blues Legend (Vintage).

“Growing up black in an all-white neighbourhood in Glasgow in the Seventies, Jackie Kay (now the national poet of Scotland) found in Bessie Smith an idol, a comfort and a friend. Kay mixes personal reflection and biography, lyrics and prose, to tell the story of how the Empress of the Blues went from an orphan singing for nickels in Tennessee, to selling 780,000 copies of her debut record, to dying in a much-mythologised car crash in 1937, aged 43. The original was published in 1997 but this reprint, with a new introduction by the author, hasn’t dated a day.” —The New Statesman.

“Eloquent and emotive. . . . Bessie Smith remains an act of intimate witnessing, a biography about a black, bisexual, working-class American artist by a celebrated Scottish poet who first recognized her own blackness and queerness in Smith’s songs, her wild mythos and ‘beautiful black face.’”—The Guardian.

Joining Jackie Kay will be Brit Bennett, she of the acclaimed debut novel, The Mothers, and then last year’s singular, bravura novel, The Vanishing Half - later this year to be The Seattle Public Library’s Seattle Reads selection.

Event Registration


Bessie Smith: A Poet's Biography of a Blues Legend Cover Image
ISBN: 9780593314272
Availability: Coming Soon - Available for Pre-Order: Scroll Down to Product Details for Release Date
Published: Vintage - September 28th, 2021

Trumpet: A Novel (Vintage Contemporaries) Cover Image
ISBN: 9780375704635
Availability: Ships in 2-10 Days
Published: Vintage - July 11th, 2000

The Vanishing Half: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780525536291
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Riverhead Books - June 2nd, 2020

The Mothers: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780399184529
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Riverhead Books - October 10th, 2017

Virtually Hosted by Elliott Bay Book Company
Saturday, September 25, 2021 - 1:00pm
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