Lois Leveen


August 19, 2012

How Much Fact Goes Into Historical Fiction?

I've been quiet on the blog of late . . . mostly because I'm working on an essay about historical fiction and feminist history for the Los Angeles Review of Books. LARB is a great place for smart reflection on literature, the kind of venue that one could only dream of back when I was in graduated school (in LA).

But I've finally got some clips edited from the program at the wonderful Museum of the African Diaspora (MOAD) in San Francisco, and also from the African American Museum and Library of Oakland (AAMLO). I'll share them in little snippets, starting with this one, which focuses on the balance between history and invention in my novel.

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August 11, 2012

Tag You’re It

Another joy of Portland: Seeing the different shelf tags for The Secrets of Mary Bowser at various Powell's locations around town.

For a long time, the airport store was my fave--cross-pollinating via travelers to/from Portland.
Powells Airport
Now look what's turned up on the Powell's website:
Staff Pick

"Based on the true story of an emancipated slave who risked her life to spy on the Confederacy for the Union during the Civil War, this book is a must-read. Written with grace and passion, fantastic historical detail and fully realized characters, The Secrets of Mary Bowser is immensely enjoyable. I'd also recommend it for young teens, 15 and up, who are interested in history and looking for a gripping read."
Recommended by Sheila N., Powell's City of Books"
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August 6, 2012

Mary Bowser Hits the Bullseye

Mary Bowser is not the only one who can keep a secret.
Target Dog Reading The Secrets of Mary Bowser

Remember that trip to Minneapolis I took recently? It wasn't just there to do my Mary Richards impersonation.
Lois and Mary Richards
Actually, Mary Bowser did her own Mary Richards impersonation, long ago.

I was in Minneapolis to meet these wonderful people:
Target Book Club
Lots of people are in book clubs. Lots of 'em are in book clubs with co-workers. But this group of co-workers belongs to an especially important book club. Because the selections they choose to discuss become the Club Pick at every Target store in the country.

I already loved Target for their generous support of arts and education. But when I found out that they'd picked The Secrets of Mary Bowser as the featured book for August, I was over the moon. Why? Because August is when families are doing their back-to-school shopping . . . at Target. What better place and time to share a story about the power of education to change a person's life. And to change the course of history.

I love bookstores. But I know not everyone spends as much time in them as I do. In fact, more and more communities don't even have a bookstore. Target will bring Mary Bowser to people who would never have found her otherwise. Including people who will find her a role model for themselves and their daughters. That can really make a nothing day suddenly seem worthwhile.

So yes, I've been over the moon. In a very long leap. Because my wonderful team at HarperCollins/William Morrow learned the Target news way back when. Which is why I've been practicing my very best Bowser for a long while, keeping this wonderful secret until the news was officially announced.
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August 1, 2012

Wham, BAM!

Wham, BAM!

I'm delighted to share the news that THE SECRETS OF MARY BOWSER is the August book club pick for Books-A-Million.

BAM is the second largest bookstore chain in the country, with many of their more than 200 stores concentrated in the Southeast.

Thanks to BAM, readers in the states that were the heart of the Confederacy will be cozying up with a novel about a former slave turned Union spy. It means so much to me that Mary Bowser's story is touching so many Americans, 150 years after the Civil War divided us.

BAM dinner
Last spring, I had the pleasure of going to Birmingham, Alabama and meeting with Ashley Thompson, Abby Brady, Erin Blake, and Margaret Terwey, four of the wonderful women who connect BAM customers with great reads. Michael Morris of HarperCollins (one of the many behind-the-scenes heroes in bringing my book into the world) joined us.

FYI the restaurant served up one of the best meals I've ever had. So if you're headed to Birmingham, bring an appetite. And an empty book bag.
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July 26, 2012

Novelist Makes Book Reviewer Gasp in Fear

Fresh from The East Bay Express, what may be the best opening paragraph of a book review ever:

Here's how good Lois Leveen is at recreating the tension of pre-Civil War Richmond, Virginia: After reading a few chapters on the life of Mary Bowser, young slave to the prominent Van Lew family, I put the book down and returned to the real world. Witnessing a young black boy flirting with white 'tween girls down by the local pool, I gasped in fear for his life. True story.

You can read the full review here.

I'll be doing a bookstore reading tonight, Thursday July 26, 7 pm at Books, Inc. in Berkeley, the oldest bookstore in the West.

For a more in-depth program about Mary Bowser and American history, come to these two great museums:
Saturday, June 28 at 2 pm, The African American Museum and Library of Oakland

Sunday, June 29 at 2 pm, The Museum of the African American Diaspora in San Francisco

Details on the upcoming events page of my website.

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