Naomi Jackson pens a coming to the Caribbean story

Naomi Jackson blends her own experiences into her novel, “The Star Side of Bird Hill.”
Photo by Lola Flash

There are an infinite number of coming to America stories.

Tales that detail an immigrant’s journey to assimilating, fitting in and their own self-discovery are popular identity topics to write about.

Providing another layer to the complicated story of identity politics, Naomi Jackson ushers in “The Star Side of Bird Hill” – a story following two girls who journey from America to Barbados.

“I grew up going home to the Caribbean for the summer,” Jackson said. “I wanted to write a story about Caribbean American life that was a little bit different than the coming to America story that we usually read. I wanted to write about what it was like to be a Caribbean American kid in the Caribbean — thinking that you’re Caribbean and then not feeling that you’re Caribbean enough.”

A familiar feeling many Caribbean American children face, Jackson recalled visiting her father’s country Antigua and having the children tease her for her American accent and her attempted Antiguan accent.

Also of Bajan descent, Jackson embodies a mixture of West Indian culture as well as her home of Brooklyn. “My mother is from Barbados and my father is from Antigua and my stepmother is Jamaican. So I claim Brooklyn and a little bit of all those places,” she said.

Digging deep into her own experiences shared visiting her Caribbean home and learning of the privilege associated with it, Jackson was able to craft her first published novel.

“I think that now that I’m older, I understand the privilege and also the loss about being a Caribbean kid in the United States. I think that it’s a privilege to have the freedom of travel, just for what an American passport allows you if you have papers because that’s not everybody’s experience in our community. I think that what used to be a childhood yearning for belonging and acceptance has gotten more complicated but I’ve grown up and come to understand a little bit better about the politics of travel and of migration,” she explained.

With her book available for purchase, Jackson actually completed “The Star Side of Bird Hill” back in December of 2013 but waited 18 long months before actually seeing it on shelves.

With the summer nearly over and fall quickly approaching, Jackson plans to continue promoting her book at various events including the AfroPunk Festival on Aug. 22, a panel discussion at Medgar Evers College Sept. 19 and during the Brooklyn Book Festival Sept. 20.

Ultimately, Jackson hopes “The Star Side of Bird Hill” leaves an impression on Caribbean readers to have important conversations around topics such as sexuality and also see themselves in the pages.

“I would say that the book for me is really a love letter to West Indian families everywhere. I am so happy to dig deep into the well of my own experience and the well of the experiences of my family members to write this book,” she said.

Purchase your copy of “The Star Side of Bird Hill” on Amazon.

Reach reporter Alley Olivier at (718) 260–8310 or e-mail her at aoliv[email protected]nglocal.com. Follow Alley on Twitter @All3Y_B.

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