This novel tells the story of a real person, Mary Bowser. Born a slave in Richmond, Virginia, Mary was freed and educated in the North but returned to the South and became a Union spy during the Civil War. Like many ordinary people who choose what is right rather than what is easy, she did extraordinary things.
Few details about Mary Bowser are known today. In the nineteenth century, little effort was made to record the daily lives of most slaves, free blacks, or women of any race. The scant facts about Mary Bowser that survive cannot tell us what we most want to know: What experiences in freedom would make her risk her life in a war she couldn’t be sure would bring emancipation? How did this educated African American woman feel, subjecting herself to people who regarded her as ignorant and even unhuman? How did living amid the death and destruction of America’s bloodiest war affect her?
The Secrets of Mary Bowser interweaves historical figures, factual events, even actual correspondence and newspaper clippings, with fictional scenes, imagined characters, and invented dialogue, to answer these questions. Like Ralph Waldo Emerson, who lived at the same time as Mary Bowser (and who, in the style of the period, often said man when today we would say person), I believe that the crises of an individual life can shed light on national crises. The novel tells the story of one woman’s life—but it also tells the story of a nation torn apart by slavery, and brought back together by the daily bravery of countless people like Mary Bowser.
Lois will be my guest on the Politics for the People conference call on Sunday, June 3rd at 7 pm EST. So, get your copy of The Secrets of Mary Bowser and start reading today.
Lois also wanted to invite those P4P members who would like an autographed copy of the book to purchase your book from Broadway Books, an independent bookstore in Portland, OR. You can order your book and when you are in the check out, there will be a comment section that says: “Use this area for special instructions or questions regarding your order.” You can request an autographed copy or if you would like a more personal message, you can make that request here as well.
POLITICS for the PEOPLE
BOOK CLUB CONFERENCE CALL
With Author Lois Leveen
The Secrets of Mary Bowser
SUNDAY, June 3rd @ 7 PM EST