Lois Leveen


March 1, 2012

I Scream, You Scream, But the Union Didn’t Scream for Ice Cream

Abraham Lincoln never had an ice cream sundae. Neither, for that matter, did Dolley Madison.
Ice Cream sundae
Ice cream sundaes did not exist until the 1890s.

This *is so* a fascinating fact related to *The Secrets of Mary Bowser,* on account of Mary not being able to go out for an ice cream sundae that did not yet exist. You may set a scene in an ice cream emporium in the 1850s, but you do not want to fudge the historical accuracy by having anyone order a sundae.

Ha ha, get it? "Fudge"!
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February 29, 2012


Things that make authors vomit . . . today's fascinating fact about The Secrets of Mary Bowser is a brief quiz! No puking required!

One of the many things that happens between an author handing in the final manuscript and a book being published is the book manuscript going out to various reviewers.

So in honor of the fact that Kirkus, once described by the New York Times as 'reliably cantankerous' will post its review of The Secrets of Mary Bowser on Monday, here's a quiz.

Which recent bestsellers did Kirkus sum up with the following phrases:

1. This genuine page-turner offers a whiff of white liberal self-congratulation that won’t hurt its appeal and probably spells big success.

2. Juicy melodrama obscured by the intricacies of problem-solving.

3. A solid sophomore effort, and hopefully a sign of even better things to come.

4. While no masterpiece, this work nevertheless contributes in good measure to the current and very welcome revitalization of the historical novel.

And NO, none of those are about my book.

(btw, Kirkus does a huge amount of plot summary, so if you read a review of my book, it will completely decimate the actual pleasure you might have gotten from reading the book. I will post their one-sentence assessment when it goes live on Monday, so you can see how I fare compared to 1-4 above).
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February 27, 2012

Lincoln’s Air Force

Civil War fact du jour: Sure you know about Obama 's Navy Seals. But did you know Lincoln had a secret Air Force?
Reconnaisance balloons
Here's a lovely picture, courtesy of Harper's Weekly. This was big-time techno-warfare, enabling Union trips to reconnoiter over Confederate lines.
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February 26, 2012

Oscar Trivia, Part 2

Speaking of Oscar trivia: yesterday, I ask about the first black Oscar winner. What other African American women have won best supporting actress awards?

Octavia Spencer won tonight. Mo'Nique won three years ago. But in the 70 years between Hattie McDaniel in 1939 and Mo'Nique in 2009, there was only one other black woman to win.

Hint: everyone let out a big whooooopey when it was announced.
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February 25, 2012

Oscar Trivia

Today's Civil War fact is also a bit of Oscar trivia:
Who was the first African American to win an Oscar?

That'd be Hattie McDaniel, for her role as Mammy in *Gone With the Wind.*
An offensively stereotyped character in an offensive film. But as McDaniels put it, better to make $700 a week playing a maid, than $7 a week being one.

She did both in her lifetime. And she also was part of a lawsuit to challenge racial covenants (neighborhood "agreements" making it illegal to sell or rent homes to blacks--or other groups, such as Jews).

There are a lot of enslaved women in my novel, and not a Mammy-stereotype among them. I wish McDaniel had lived long enough to see an America that's more interested in these kind of stories.
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