Feathers, published in 2007, is a short YA novel that is set in the 1970’s and told from the point of view of Frannie (although that is not her real name), a sixth grade African American girl with an older brother named Sean, who is deaf. Sean taught Frannie sign language and sign language plays a big part in this novel. Feathers focuses for the most part on Frannie’s home life with her brother, mother and father, their neighborhood, and her life at Price, the school she attends. Frannie, her friends and her schoolmates have never gone to school with someone who is white, until one day a light-skinned, light-haired boy who goes by the name of Jesus shows up. All the students start referring to him as Jesus Boy and some of them even wonder if the real Jesus has shown up as a kid in their school.
This book deals with a lot of different and sometimes difficult issues such as class, race, disability, hope and death. Some of my favorite parts of this book were the scenes between Frannie and her brother Sean when they are communicating together using sign language. Sean is the dreamer in the family and through Sean, Frannie begins to embrace her imagination instead of relying solely on facts as she knows them. Feathers would be a great book choice for anyone who has ever been the new kid in school or for anyone who has ever been curious about sign language.
The title, by the way, comes from the line in Emily Dickinson’s poem #314:
“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –
And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –
I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet – never – in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of me.
Posted by Naptharoe