“‘My Father Didn’t Have a Dick’: Social Death and Jackie Kay’s Trumpet” – Matt Richardson

1. Black Manhood, as described by Matt Richardson, is a stigmatized identity that is brought into closer analysis when Joss Moody is “discovered” to be a designated female at birth. How does Joss enable the reproduction of black masculinity? How does playing Jazz music allow Joss to create his own identity?

2.  Richardson argues that social death, as experienced by African American people, did not end with the abolition of slavery. Having a queer identity, Joss Moody allows us to see another form of social death. Categories such as “family, man, woman, marriage, heterosexual, lesbian, and ordinary” (363) are being put into new perspectives. How can thinking about these categories help us understand the social death that Coleman experiences?

3. “I am especially interested in how Colman comes to see himself as socially dead as well — a black man who is ultimately in a feminized position in relationship to legitimate patriarchal white masculinity.” (Richardson 362). Do the feminine characters of the novel, like Millie, Edith, and Sophie, reinforce Coleman’s black masculinity? Do they compromise his black masculinity? How?

4. Richardson uses some of the imagery from the novel to introduce a Freudian idea of reproducing masculinity. Coleman’s memory of touching the trumpet (seen as a phallic symbol) creates nostalgia towards connecting to the father. What other figurative/literal symbols reinforce Joss Moody’s masculinity according to Richardson?



One thought on ““‘My Father Didn’t Have a Dick’: Social Death and Jackie Kay’s Trumpet” – Matt Richardson

  1. 1. Joss helps us think about Black Manhood through his son, Coleman. Coleman throughout his whole life learned how to be a man through Joss and once it is “discovered” that Joss is a designated female at birth, Coleman becomes confused about his identity. However, this shows that it’s not about the sexual body parts that make up Black Manhood but it’s your identity and Coleman realizes and accepts this at the end of the book. As for playing Jazz, Joss became famous through it and was accepted as a black male trumpet player and Joss lived his life with that identity until his death.

    2. After Joss’s death, his family was targeted and Coleman went from a Scottish black man who were considered socially dead to a someone who knew about Joss after being “discovered.”

    3. I felt that Millie and Sophie compromised his black masculinity in a way. With Millie, Coleman’s memory of the black man on the bus had him witness a black man being talked down to and Millie coming to the black man’s rescue. I think it made him see that even though that he is a man because he’s black that he has to have a white woman stand up for him since they are socially stronger because of the nation they are in. With Sophie, she was constantly badgering Coleman for information and Coleman never really stood up for himself until the end of the book where he cut off the deal with Sophie. Although, he did have that fantasy with Sophie to prove to himself that he is masculine. If he had to prove that to himself then I think that means he was unsure of his masculinity.

    4. I honestly think it was mostly the trumpet that reinforced Joss Moody’s masculinity but figuratively maybe it was the fact that he was good at it and even becoming famous because of it.

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