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Designed as a turn of the century women’s magazine that combines memoir, history, theory, poetry, and image, FEATHERS: A BIRD-HAT WEARER’S JOURNAL explores women’s complex relationship with birds through the history of feather fashion. Originating in the bird-hat controversy of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, which coincided with both the women’s suffrage and budding American conservation movements, this polyvocal book moves in multiple directions as it examines cases of women and birds from across cultures and time periods, from the Virgin Mary, to Leda, Swan Lake, and Alexander McQueen. As its connective thread, Feathers also follows one woman’s enculturation into the world of bird-women and its inherent violence. What might we learn about gender from the birds?
Literary Nonfiction. Art. Nature. Women's Studies.
“If I didn’t know any better, I would promise you this book was found in a tree hollow written by birds on the feathers of their dead, and bound with threads from forgotten dresses. Stunningly original and edging on mischief, FEATHERS: A BIRD-HAT WEARER’S JOURNAL undoes the myth of beauty and finds at its center a seed from which monsters might grow. Sarah Rose Nordgren has reimagined the book form to give it a thrilling new purpose.”
—Sabrina Orah Mark
“FEATHERS: A BIRD-HAT WEARER’S JOURNAL exposits the impossible expectations of women in society through the uncanny relationship between women and birds. A contrast of fanciful and rebellious attitudes weave in and out of various modes: diaries, nonfiction, short stories, poetry, & illustration. Themes of the personal, historical, and political entangle within a poetics collected as a curio cabinet of language and image.”
“A deft and expansive meditation on the relationship of ‘natural beauty’ to ‘extreme body modification, regulation, and discipline,’ FEATHERS: A BIRD-HAT WEARER’S JOURNAL tells the history of a Victorian fashion decorating women with not just wings or plumes, but whole, taxidermied birds: ‘as if the ladies’ heads were opened to the sky, exposing spacious aviaries.’ Nordgren follows the ‘bird-hat debate’ from its Victorian origins to examples by Alexander McQueen and Victoria’s Secret still flapping down our runways. Guided by historic illustrations and lit with a voice that is speculative, agile, and witty, FEATHERS traces an ecofeminist argument from its forgotten past into a future made possible through collective memory.”
Sarah Rose Nordgren is the author of the poetry collections Darwin's Mother (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2017) and Best Bones (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2014), and the prose chapbook The Creation Museum (Small Harbor Publishing, 2022). Her poems and essays have appeared in American Poetry Review, Kenyon Review, Ploughshares, and Narrative, and have been featured by PBS Newshour, The Slowdown podcast, Poetry Daily, and elsewhere. She lives in her hometown of Durham, North Carolina where she is the Founding Director of The School for Living Futures, an interdisciplinary, experimental project dedicated to creating new knowledge and possibility for our climate-changed future.