Allow us to set the scene for you, Shmoopers: It's 1970s America, and you're sitting in your sixth-grade classroom—which is filled entirely with black kids, because only black families live on this side of town—when in walks a white boy who lets you all know that he'd really prefer to be called Jesus Boy.
Not sure how you'd react? Maybe you'd join the masses in treating Jesus Boy like he's an unwelcome weirdo. Or maybe you'd be like Frannie, our main girl in Feathers, and decide to give the new kid a chance.
Published in 2010, award-winning author Jacqueline Woodson doesn't just tackle race relations in this book. Nope—she also examines spiritual discovery, ableism, family dynamics, and the pains of hanging out in that tentative place between childhood and adolescence. Sound like a lot to fit into one book? It is. But have no fear, because Woodson totally nails it. Otherwise she wouldn't have won the Newberry Honor Medal for this one.
So despite the heavy terrain Woodson dives into, this book remains pretty easy to read—though we'll stop short of saying it's light as a feather. Ba-dum-tish.
So what in the world do race relations in the 1970s have to do with you, reader from the 21st century? The fact of the matter is that racism and the idea of belonging to a community are both issues that we continue to face today. They're good topics to explore if (1) you don't live under a rock, (2) you have thought about what racial diversity really means, and (3) you have wondered how you—or anyone else—really belongs someplace.
In other words, presuming you don't live under a rock, these kinds of themes are relevant to just about everyone. And Feathers is here to help you sort through all the confusing emotions and thoughts that go with such major topics.
But here's the thing: Even if you do live under a rock, Feathers still matters. Because ultimately, the biggest lesson Frannie learns is about acceptance. And that's something everyone can benefit from a brush-up on, even if your company is primarily pebbles instead of people.
Did you enjoy Feathers? Well, you're in luck, because you can learn all about Woodson and check out her long list of publishing credits on her official website.
Powell's reviews Feathers and talks about how it tackles "grief, trauma, death, survival, and hope," and refers to it as "112 pages of poetry." Talk about high praise.
According to an interview with Woodson, she didn't just randomly put in ASL and a deaf character. She's studied ASL and is especially interested in adding characters that aren't a part of the "mainstream."
This reading of a passage from Feathers is all about Frannie's dead baby sister, Lila. It's a pretty emotional video.
Jacqueline Woodson talk all about her family history as an African American woman, and how it's affected her writing today.
Hearing the Whole Story
If you'd rather just listen to Feathers, you can pick up the audiobook and hear the whole tale in less than three hours. That's shorter than the average Lord of the Rings movie.
Meet and Greet
Wondering what award-winning author Woodson looks like? Check out her author photo.
Let's Get Fancy
Feathers is a recipient of the John Newbery Medal. Is that a fancy seal, or what?