A year later, she married artist Tom Feelings, whom she had met earlier in the decade. The couple then collaborated on their first book, Zamani Goes to Market, published in 1970. Kamili Feelings said a character in the book was also named after him.
Muriel L. Feelings was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on July 31, 1938. She received a bachelor's degree in art with minors in Spanish and education from California State University at Los Angeles. She worked as a teacher in Philadelphia, New York City, and Kampala, Uganda. She wrote several children's books including Zamani Goes to Market, Moja Means One: A Swahili Counting Book, which won the Randolph Caldecott Medal, and Jambo Means Hello: A Swahili Alphabet Book, which also won the Randolph Caldecott Medal. She died on September 29, 2011 at the age of 73.
Feelings returned to New York in 1968, where she rekindled friendships with those she knew before Uganda, including artist Tom Feelings, whom she had met in the mid-1960s at the home of historian John Henrik Clarke. She and Tom were married in early 1969. Tom suggested that Feelings pen a children's book, which he would illustrate. Feelings tapped into her memories of Kenya to write her first children's book, Zamani Goes to Market, which was published in 1970. About the same time the couple had their first child, whom they named Zamani, a Swahili word connoting time, such as "infinite" or "a long time ago."
Feelings shared this sensitivity partly because he grew up in the milieu that gave rise to the cultural and political developments of the 1960s. Bearing this in mind, I argue that Feelings's choices regarding the subject matter of his art resulted from both his personal estimation of the utility of children's literature and his involve- ment with the African American move- ments toward self-identity and affirma- tion. Feelings decided to illustrate chil- dren's books because he felt children needed "books-lots of them, in their hands, books with positive Black images" (Black Pilgrimage 42). His subsequent work reveals that Feelings did not possess the solution to the African American situation in America; rather, he was in search of it. This search begins with one of the first chil- dren's books he illustrated, Zamani Goes to Market, and comes to fruition in Soul Looks Back In Wonder.