Fearless When I Want to Be

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This straightforward story combines history with a young girl’s life in early 20th-century America as part of a Wild West show. Two Feathers (not her real name) knows that she’s lucky to be a girl diving off a plank with a showboating horse but she doesn’t kid herself about how white people see her. Neither black nor white, but occupying a nebulous place in between, she gets paid and good accommodations but respect from only a few people.

We get quite a bit of background on Two Feathers. She’s fiercely devoted to family. One reason is that she’s Cherokee and an agreement with the American government favorable to that tribe made them disliked by other indigenous people. So she’s learned to the importance of banding together with family.

But Two Feathers is a true hoyden. She didn’t want to cook for others, feed chickens or work the farm. She loves horses, swimming and wants to shoot guns. So she became a trick shooter and became gifted with the lasso. When she got the chance to learn how to dive on a horse into water, she seized the chance. You got to love someone who follows such a happy dream.

The story has a prosaic tone to it, even with mentions of Cherokee superstitions. But it’s an unusual storyline with an unusual protagonist and the author draws you into Two Feathers quotidian life: her daily rituals, self-sufficiency, familial concerns and memories of amorous love. She could be twelve or twenty but, either way, she’s a girl to watch.