“Weathered Bird” follows Bertha Mae “Birdy” Whitaker, a teenage African-American girl in 1920s Philadelphia. She falls madly in love with Sidney, a “high yellow” bootlegger who lives on the threshold between different societies: black and white, law-abiding and criminal. Birdy’s passion for him causes her to disregard common sense and become unhealthily attached to him. As the story progresses, she has to decide what she wants, and how she can grow up to become her own woman.
The atmosphere of the 1920s is beautifully invoked here, so readers who enjoy stories set in that time period are likely to appreciate it for that. It was an exciting, dangerous time, when social constructs and societal constraints were coming into question, and race relations were undergoing a significant shift–with, sometimes, dangerous consequences, especially for those who were most vulnerable.
The real heart of the story, though, is Birdy and her transformation from needy girl to independent woman. Both she and Sidney come across as living, breathing, flawed but sympathetic characters. It’s a short work, but it packs plenty of emotional punch in a few pages.
I got this book in a giveaway and my copy of the story had several typos. Although they did not materially damage the overall reading experience, I think this story deserves a bit more editing polish. That, however, is a minor issue, and I’d definitely recommend this story to anyone interested in reading about the Jazz Age or a woman’s coming-of-age story.