Readers' Favorite

October 11, 2023

Songs of Irie by Asha Ashanti Bromfield ~ a Review

by MK French

In 1976 Jamaica, warring political parties widened the divide between rich and poor. Irie is from the rough parts of Kingston, while Jilly lives comfortably up in the hills. The two bond over reggae, exposing them to different viewpoints. They also have a budding romance, but their future options are very different: while Irie can only fight against the growing tension in her neighborhood, Jilly can easily escape. How can their bond survive?

Amazon affiliate links are used on this site. A free book was provided for an honest review.

book cover of young adult novel Songs of Irie b Asha Ashanti Bromfield
October 2023; Wednesday Books; 978-1250846808
audio, ebook, print (400 pages); young adult

Asha had written Hurricane Summer, where Tilla goes to Jamaica with the father she never really spent time with. This novel goes back in time, so there's even more regarding class, color, and gender roles for the girls to deal with. Once the British were expelled from Jamaica in 1962, there wasn't any agreement on how the country should be run, so two cousins formed two different political parties. Their division is in effect in 1976, as the remnants of class divisions are still present but trying to be broken down. Expensive school fees kept the poor in their own neighborhoods and away from opportunities, and gangs were common in the streets. The turf wars rarely hit the rich neighborhoods, unfortunately. We see that contrast right away. On the same day of high school graduation, a drive-by leaves people dead outside Irie's family record shop, and Jilly is at home getting fitted for a dress that would let her parents show off at a dinner party and fix her up with another politician's son. Both are expected to follow their parents' needs and to stay within the confines of their class, and we see how much more they want from their lives.

Irie and Jilly connected via music, but their lives are very different. We see what it's like in the ghetto and the rich neighborhoods, and of course, the rich want to protect their own and keep the power in place. Even the girls themselves didn't initially realize how different their lives were, or how the values of their parents in some ways were very different as well. As Irie and Jilly spend time together over the summer, politics rears its very ugly head. The politicians don't care who they manipulate or what they have to do to get their way, and the gangs don't care who they threaten. This takes its toll on the friendship and maybe more that could have developed, and the night of the election is the most dangerous one of all. Through Irie and Jilly, we see firsthand how fraught the lives of the people were in that period, and what freedom meant to the people of Jamaica. It's an elegy to Jamaica of the 70's, well written and ready to rip out your heart.

Buy Songs of Irie at Amazon

Born and raised in New York City, M.K. French started writing stories when very young, dreaming of different worlds and places to visit. She always had an interest in folklore, fairy tales, and the macabre, which has definitely influenced her work. She currently lives in the Midwest with her husband, three young children, and a golden retriever.

Enjoyed this post? Never miss out on future posts by following us. Get even more book news in your inbox, sign up for our newsletter today! Or Follow Girl Who Reads with Bloglovin. Girl Who Reads is an Amazon advertising affiliate; a small commission is earned when purchases are made at Amazon using any Amazon links on this site. Thank you for supporting Girl Who Reads.


Post a Comment