As soon as I got home from work last night, I ate quickly and went straight to the couch. I pulled out my pen (because I can’t read without underlining) and I lay supine. I told my husband, who was nattering about robots taking humans’ job (or something like that), to go away.
I was about 50 pages shy of completing an utterly satisfying and gorgeous read by one of my new friends, Naomi Jackson, author of the much buzzed-about The Star Side of Bird Hill, and I wanted to get on with it.
I loved this book for so many reasons. But if I were to boil it down to a few, I would say Naomi’s work spotlights an important, but often overlooked component of Caribbean literature which the Caribbean-American experience. When I read about Phaedra and Dionne, two Flatbush Bajan girls that straddled two cultures in this story, I finally found a home.
By “home,” I mean a sense of being claimed as having an identity that was uniquely both Caribbean and American and seeing someone “validate” that experience through storytelling is a big win for first-generation Caribbean girls like me.
And another reason: The writing is brave. I think the advantage of being of two cultures yet feeling like neither sometimes is that you have great insight into how both groups move, feel, and live. In this book, Naomi hits on a lot of taboo topics that neither African-American nor Caribbean folk like to face: depression, homosexuality, isolation, and suicide. (Click here if you want a description of the book)
And for that act alone, Naomi gets props from me.
And one more reason (this is supposed to her interview. LOL) : I like the author and what she stands for. Naomi and I have been able to connect a few times within the last year and I can say that she is just as “satisfying” as her art if not more. I just think she is good peoples. Straight-up.
Naomi is definitely a DreamGirl. Here is her life in her own words.
What do you do and why is it important?
I’m a writer. What I do is important because the stories we tell, read and see shape who we are, how we think about ourselves, and the issues, ideas, and people we value.
What advice would you give to your 20 year-old self?
Stop worrying so much about what other people think of you. Redirect the energy you spend pleasing and taking care of other people, and channel it with love into your writing.
What are three things that you know for sure?
I know that life is made meaningful by love, friends and family.
I know that most things that I think are big deals won’t seem that way once time has passed.
I know that honey tastes better than venom.
What is the best advice (financial, emotional, spiritual, health-related) that you have ever received? Why did that piece of wisdom resonate with you so much?
Comparisons are odious. And then another version of this, “Comparisons are fatal.” I knew this already, but hearing this advice spoken in such simple terms really helped it land for me. In our world (especially with social media), it’s easy to get caught up in comparing our lives to other people’s lives. I think that staying grounded in our own vision and goals is the only way to move forward.
What is going on in your business/career that EVERYONE should know about now? Is there a product or services that we should ALL know about?
My novel, The Star Side of Bird Hill, was published by Penguin Press on June 30, 2015. A coming-of-age story set in Barbados and Brooklyn, the novel follows two sisters, Phaedra and Dionne, as they spend the summer with their grandmother after their mother can no longer care for them. The book has received strong reviews, appeared on numerous summer reading lists, and been long listed for the Center for Fiction’s debut novel prize. I’ll be on tour this summer promoting the book in my hometown of Brooklyn, New York, Western Massachusetts, Iowa City, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and Atlanta.
Where do you see yourself and your business in the next five years?
In the next five years, I want to become a respected literary and public figure that consistently receives generous compensation for my work and time. I would like to finish and publish two more novels as well as venture into other genres, including poetry, children’s books, and young adult books. I am working on a screenplay adaptation of one of my short stories, and I hope to create other opportunities for myself in film. I would also like to take on some other entrepreneurial ventures.
What makes you a DreamGirl?
I am in passionate pursuit of my dreams, and in community with others who are doing the same.
What rituals, if any, do you do on a daily, monthly, or yearly to keep you focused, positive, or centered?
When I’m at home in Brooklyn, I always make room in my schedule for my niece and nephews. There’s nothing so hard that good hugs and chubby cheeks can’t take the edge off.
How do you handle setbacks? What skills, support, or personality trait do you rely on the most to help you overcome adversity?
Optimism, persistence, and stamina are probably the most important tools that I use to overcome adversity. I also have friends and family who keep me grounded, supported, and sane.
Naomi Jackson is the author of The Star Side of Bird Hill, published by Penguin Press in June 2015. She studied fiction at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. A graduate of Williams College, Jackson traveled to South Africa on a Fulbright scholarship, where she received an M.A. in Creative Writing from the University of Cape Town. Her work has appeared in literary journals and magazines in the United States and abroad
Twitter: @thenaomijackson Facebook: www.facebook.com/naomijacksonwriter Instagram: @thenaomijackson