Tuesday, November 3, 2015

The Star Side of Bird Hill-Naomi Jackson

The Star Side of Bird Hill-Naomi Jackson

the facts
satisfaction: up
pages: 304
gender: F
nationality: USA, of color
year: 2015
novel

2 sisters find themselves under the care of their grandmother, an obeah, in Barbados following their mother's mental illness in Brooklyn.


An absolutely lovely coming of age tale. Jackson deftly moves back and forth from Barbados and Brooklyn weaving in the two worlds and the two sisters, of vastly different age experiences, together with prose that is strong and lyrical. I use lyrical because there is such a flow to the narrative that is sometimes interrupted by the dialogue-much like an internal narrative is jolted by reality and the conversations it cannot control. Well done. Both girls are strong characters-Dionne who took care of her sister while trying desperately to fit in and Phaedra who embraced her own difference and watches to see how to handle things. Hyacinth, the grandmother, has reactions to the actions of her charges that seem so natural and that is due to the strength of Jackson's prose. This novel lingers. I also definitely enjoyed this because it's not often a perspective we find in literature-poor West Indian that does not dwell on the poverty or the history but rather captures a more contemporary, 'insiders' viewpoint. Jackson avoids archetypes-Hyacinth is going through issues of her own, Dionne makes you want to shake her to her senses-and shines an unflinching light on their lives.
But also, Phaedra. I fell in love with that girl.

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