The Star Side of Bird Hill (Hardcover)

By Naomi Jackson

Penguin Press, 9781594205958, 304pp.

Publication Date: June 30, 2015

July 2015 Indie Next List

“In the summer of 1989, sisters Dionne and Phaedra -- aged 16 and 10, respectively -- are shuttled from their Brooklyn life to their grandmother Hyacinth's home in Barbados. Dionne is filled with palpable teenage angst and the desire for romance, while Phaedra prefers to experience the mysteries of Bird Hill with her grandmother. Both girls have a tentative curiosity about their mother's early life on the island, but it is not until their father shows up unexpectedly that they question their very identities and what it means to be 'home.' Reminiscent of Jamaica Kincaid, Jackson's coming-of-age tale makes Barbados spring from the page with humor, beauty, and heartbreak.”
— Amanda Hurley, Inkwood Books, Tampa, FL
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Description

Two sisters are suddenly sent from their home in Brooklyn to Barbados to live with their grandmother, in this stunning debut novel

This lyrical novel of community, betrayal, and love centers on an unforgettable matriarchal family in Barbados. Two sisters, ages ten and sixteen, are exiled from Brooklyn to Bird Hill in Barbados after their mother can no longer care for them. The young Phaedra and her older sister, Dionne, live for the summer of 1989 with their grandmother Hyacinth, a midwife and practitioner of the local spiritual practice of obeah.

Dionne spends the summer in search of love, testing her grandmother's limits, and wanting to go home. Phaedra explores Bird Hill, where her family has lived for generations, accompanies her grandmother in her role as a midwife, and investigates their mother's mysterious life.

This tautly paced coming-of-age story builds to a crisis when the father they barely know comes to Bird Hill to reclaim his daughters, and both Phaedra and Dionne must choose between the Brooklyn they once knew and loved or the Barbados of their family.

Jackson's Barbados and her characters are singular, especially the wise Hyacinth and the heartbreaking young Phaedra, who is coming into her own as a young woman amid the tumult of her family.

Praise for The Star Side of Bird Hill

"Jackson has written a first novel full of heart and heartbreak, a novel about going home, about the ties that bind three generations of women across years and despite absence. It is a bittersweet lesson in learning to recognize love."
--Ayana Mathis, author of The Twelve Tribes of Hattie (Oprah's Book Club 2.0 selection)

"Naomi Jackson has written a tender novel exploring the complexities of motherhood and childhood. The Star Side of Bird Hill holds together opposing elements--the book is quiet in the telling, but the story being told is sharp and vibrant. It is as much a story of the fears of childhood as it is a story about welcoming old age with optimism. A book that knows death and discovery. A book laced with pain but shimmering with hope. With care, the narrative addresses huge issues, such as mental illness, mortality, sexuality, and, at its very core, what it means to love another person as they are."
--Tiphanie Yanique, author of Land of Love and Drowning


About the Author

NAOMI JACKSON was born and raised in Brooklyn by West Indian parents. She studied fiction at the Iowa Writers' Workshop, where she was awarded the Maytag Fellowship for Excellence in Fiction to complete her first novel, The Star Side of Bird Hill. Jackson traveled to South Africa on a Fulbright scholarship, where she received an MA in creative writing from the University of Cape Town. A graduate of Williams College, Jackson has had her work appear in literary journals and magazines in the United States and abroad.


Conversation Starters from ReadingGroupChoices.com

  1. What is your impression of Bird Hill? How do Dionne and Phaedra adjust to their new home?generic viagra price canada
  2. Why, in the first chapter, does Chris throw the rock at Phaedra’s head? How does it reflect their families’ different beliefs and upbringings?generic viagra price canada
  3. Do you think that Dionne is justified in acting out against her grandmother? Why or why not? How would you have acted in her situation?generic viagra price canada
  4. How do the sisters differ in their reactions to their father’s return? What is Hyacinth’s take on this development?generic viagra price canada
  5. What happens during the parade between Dionne’s father and Jean? How does Dionne’s perception of her father change afterwards?generic viagra price canada
  6. We see flashbacks to Dionne and Phaedra’s lives with Avril in Brooklyn. Discuss what is happening to Avril. What do you think they understood about Avril’s illness? How do their responsibilities change when they move in with Hyacinth?generic viagra price canada
  7. What happened to Avril in Bird Hill? Discuss Avril’s relationship to Hyacinth.generic viagra price canada
  8. “It wasn’t so much that Hyacinth wanted someone to lean on, because Hyacinth was more than capable of standing upright in the face of the most difficult things, even her husband’s death. Hyacinth just wanted to know that she could shift her weight to one side and it wouldn’t be just the air and the force of her will holding her up, but the support of her family too. Hyacinth thought life was not just easier, but sweeter with family by her side. That’s what she’d been raised up to believe, and what her heart told her was still true now. She wondered why she hadn’t been able to pass this truth on to her own daughter. She wanted to know whether and how her grandchildren might learn this for themselves.” (p. 115) Discuss this passage. In what ways do the generations within this family struggle to understand one another? What is your experience with your own family?generic viagra price canada
  9. Phaedra accompanies Hyacinth on her visits as a midwife and a practitioner of obeah. What do you think Phaedra takes away from these experiences?generic viagra price canada
  10. Why do you think Hyacinth tells Dionne the story about Bertha (p. 281-286)?generic viagra price canada
  11. How does Dionne and Phaedra’s relationship with their grandmother evolve over the course of the book? How does Hyacinth change?generic viagra price canada
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