Skip to main content

Joe Jablonski C’81, L’87 publishes debut novel, A Thing With Feathers, as J. John Nordstrom

October 14, 2021

A Thing With Feathers is a work of original literary fiction that explores the nature of the highest love humans are capable of attaining: “soulmate love.”

Earlier this year, Joe Jablonski C’81 L’87, writing as J. John Nordstrom, released his debut novel, A Thing With Feathers. The University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School and Penn are mentioned numerous times throughout the novel, which is set in northern Virginia in 2005-2006 and imagines a romance between two lawyers – an Edgar Allan Poe-like character (Jonah) and his soulmate, a modern-day Emily Dickinson (Julia). As far as anyone knows, the real-life Poe and Dickinson never met, but they do in a vivid, fictive dream Joe sets in the 21st century.

Published by The Writing Collective, a British independent publisher created by editors and novelists Joe Sale and Ross Jeffery, A Thing With Feathers both advances a theory of poetry à la Poe and showcases an extensive, secret poetry exchange between protagonists Jonah and Julia as stand-ins for a modern Poe and a modern Dickinson. Joe wrote the novel “For Jill,” his muse.

“My law school experience at Penn Law proved invaluable to writing A Thing With Feathers in so many ways,” said Joe. “The intellectual rigor at Penn Law facilitated the writing of a novel like this. The Law School’s dedication to promoting the public interest contributed to the creation of the characters of Jonah and Julia, who decide to become law librarians in a county law library serving the public’s legal information needs rather than to take more lucrative jobs in law firms. Their happiness consists in their providing down-and-out lay patrons with the information necessary to pursue their cases pro se, and in many cases, against all odds.”

While at the Law School, Joe served on the University of Pennsylvania Law Review, which further contributed to his success as an author. Moreover, Joe calls his professional friendship with former Dean and University Professor of Law, Emeritus Robert Mundheim “a highlight” of his time at the Law School at Penn. Joe credits Mundheim with extraordinary prescience in getting President Joe Biden, then candidate Joe Biden, to speak at the Law School’s Commencement exercises held in May 1987, the year of the bicentennial of the signing of the U.S. Constitution.

“Bob Mundheim admonished us to never do anything that might bring dishonor to our names in the front pages of the newspaper,” Joe said. “A Thing With Feathers is born out of Mundheim’s insistence that lawyers be more than moneymakers and give something back to their communities. The novel is, in the final analysis, a serious critique of the state of modern American culture and the modern legal profession in America.”

A Thing With Feathers was named a Finalist in the National Indie Excellence Awards in Romance for 2021 and has been entered in several other literary contests, including the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction 2022. The novel fits into the genres of fictional autobiography and literary romance and has received outstanding reviews on Goodreads and Amazon.

Joe is now working on a sequel. He can be contacted @NordstromJoe on Twitter.

Explore Penn Law Alumni Office resources and events.