The Star Side of Bird Hill by Naomi Jackson
It is the summer of 1989 and Dionne, 16, has been raising herself and her sister Phaedra, 10, for the past few years as their mother battles depression. At a particularly low point she sends her daughters home, to Barbados and their grandmother Hyacinth. Life on Bird Hill is strange to the two Brooklyn natives. Dionne is struggling with adolescence, abandonment and the first taste of freedom she’s known since taking care of Phaedra ruled over most of her life before now. Phaedra has always been an outsider, but never more than on Bird Hill, yet she forms a connection with her grandmother and shows interest in learning the old ways of obeah. Both girls are resigned to their stay on the island, but they are glad that the summer will end and they will return to Brooklyn. But when it becomes clear that they will be staying in Barbados permanently, and their father returns to their lives, they find out the true meaning of family and their roots.
Another great choice on audio because of the accents; the reader brings the lilting rhythm of Barbados alive in the speech of Hyacinth. She also voices the sisters Brooklyn accents well. The mastery comes when the Brooklyn girls start losing their accent and adopting their grandmother’s.
This is a tale about belonging – in a family, in a community and in a country – and how hurtful not belonging can be. It is also about grief, how you can lose someone who is already there and how losing someone who is already lost can hurt so badly.