In Brooklyn, Barbados was bimshire, a jewel that Bajans turned over in their minds, a candy whose sweetness they sucked on whenever the bitter cold and darkness of life in America became too much to bear. Avril, while she reserved a healthy amount of disdain for Bird Hill and its people, still felt something like love for her country, and she wanted at the very least to keep up with what was going on there. Almost twenty years into living in the States, she had no illusions of moving home and starting over again like the other women she knew who went home every year, packed barrels and kept up with phone calls, went to the meeting of the old boys’ and old girls’ clubs of their high schools where fattened, impoverished versions of themselves showed up in the harsh lights of church basements in Brooklyn, picking over the grains of famous stories from the old days and new stories about who had done well or not well at all in what they liked to call “this man country.” In the same way that Avril had never been a good West Indian girl when she was home, she was not a good West Indian woman abroad, not given to cultivating a desire for and a connection to home that smacked of devotion. Still, she told Dionne and Phaedra that no matter what she felt about Bird hill, it was important that they spend time with their grandmother, and get to know the place without which they would still be specks in God’s eye.

—From Naomi Jackson’s debut novel, The Star Side of Bird Hill, about two sisters, ages ten and sixteen, exiled to Brooklyn from Bird Hill, Barbados, while their mother, a former AIDS nurse, stays back home due to a severe chronic depression.

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