Blogging Mary Bowser

March 24, 2014

Postcards from the Edge of Publication

This is too beautiful not to share:



Thanks to my wonderful team at Emily Bestler Books and Atria (for those of you who don't speak insider publishing, they are part of Simon & Schuster).

Learn more and order it today: www.julietsnursebook.com

Permalink   (0) Comments  
February 27, 2014

Mary Richards Bowser Tell All

You'd think that if something happened 150 years ago, historians would know all about it by now.

You'd be wrong about that.

There's still much we don't know about the Civil War, and especially about Mary Bowser. In fact, I've grown so frustrated over the number of "non-fiction" sources, from the Wikipedia to the African American National Biography edited by Henry Louis Gates and Evelyn Higginbotham and co-published by Harvard and Oxford University Presses, which repeat falsehoods about her and/or make unproven claims about her, that I wrote this entry for the Encyclopedia of Virginia detailing every documented aspect of her life, and discounting all those false or unproven claims.

But I think there's still a lot more to be learned about her, and I'm hoping that students and scholars will take the challenge. So I've also posted a list of opportunities for further research on the EVA blog.

Ready to dig into some historical research of your own? I hope so.
Permalink   (0) Comments  
January 11, 2014

The Doctorow Is In: Two Provocative Ideas on Novel Writing

Just woke up to two very provocative thoughts from EL Doctorow, by way of NPR.

"Some people think of me as a historical novelist — I don't agree with that. . . The historical novel seems to me a misnomer, and many of my books take place in different places, . . . so it's just as valid to call me a geographical novelist as an historical novelist."


And if that wan't enough to push me to think more deeply about what I do, he follows up with:
"Fiction is the most conservative of the arts. If you think historically, what has happened in music or among the poets — Whitman in the 19th century just destroying romantic poetry and building a whole kind of new thing. The ideas carried along by the artists who keep changing, keep looking for more, something truer, something greater. But generally speaking, the insistence on storytelling of a realistic nature has predominated and continued in the old ways. So what I'm guided by — perhaps it's futile — is Ezra Pound's injunction, when he was talking to the poets, he said, "make it new, make it new." And that's what must have been provoking me when this book came along.
"

(That bit sort of ignores the importance of Emily Dickinson, just as radical as Whitman but in a whole other way, and of course the Modernist novelists would say they were doing something dramatically different than what their late-nineteenth-century precursors did, but still, MAKE IT NEW is always a good provocation).

Both of these sentiments are perfectly timed to push me as I cast about for the beginnings of my third novel. Nominations of time/place/people being accepted. In the meanwhile, listen to all of the Doctorow interview here: http://www.npr.org/2014/01/11/261450791/doctorow-ruminates-on-how-a-brain-becomes-a-mind
Permalink   (0) Comments  
December 19, 2013

The Best Worst Christmas Gift in History

Sorry to be so quiet for so long. I've been finishing a new novel, JULIET'S NURSE.

But meanwhile, in time for whatever you are or aren't celebrating this season, click here for a short piece called "The Best Worst Christmas Present in History."
Permalink   (0) Comments  
July 17, 2013

From Oregon to Florida

This past weekend, I had an amazing time leading a series of workshops about American history at the Josephine Community Libraries in rural Oregon.

One point I made, which I often do in talks about my novel, is to ask the audience to imagine what Mary Bowser's parents (and other enslaved parents) must have experienced: how would you protect a child when you have no legal right to do so? How could you teach a child to survive such totalizing racism?

I can't help noting that as we were having this conversation, many Americans were experiencing similar anguish because of verdict in the Zimmerman trial. What can the adults who love young people of color today teach them to make them safe? How is it that in the 21st century, we've come to a point where laws in the country leave an unarmed teen with no way to walk home without being taken as a threat and paying with his life? (There was a very good piece about this in the New York Times).

As someone who writes and teaches about race in America, I work so hard to understand our history. I am always profoundly touched by what readers say about how my book helps them understand race in America's past. And yet, like so many people around the world, I'm disturbed so often about how race still functions in America today.
Permalink   (0) Comments  

Page 1 of 26 pages  1 2 3 >  Last ›

Follow Lois Leveen on Twitter
Lois Leveen on Facebook