I never heard of Mary Bowser before reading Lois Leveen’s historic novel. Such a range of experiences and imagery! From the sadness of having her shiny ribbon thrown into the fireplace, being separated from her mamma and papa, her papa’s iron cross, getting kicked off the omnibus in the liberal north to Mary shooting the soldier in the head. Her
remorse for this action unnecessary and her decency and bravery inspiring. I had to keep reminding myself this was an historic novel and yet left wondering about all the unknown people and actions of bravery that took place.
There were the humorous yet serious depictions of Aunt Piss and Queen Varina. And maybe this wasn’t so humorous as an “Aha!” moment: The slaves were invisible until there was the realization the Confederacy was losing, to paraphrase the leaders, “We have millions of slaves, we can recruit them too!” Then realizing what that would really mean!
Thinking about today, I’m fortunate to live in a comfortable building complex, about three blocks from a run-down housing project. There are many neglected housing projects throughout NYC, occupants are people of color who are starting to fight back for being treated as invisible. I walk out my door and there are homeless people on the streets. If you walk by the grand U.S. Post Office early in the morning, dozens of invisible people are sleeping/living on the stairs.
Then I turn on the news and hear that the economy is better, unemployment is down. Where are these people? Simply dropped from their statistics? Invisible?
Alice Rydel is a long-time activist with the independent development community.
Join us tonight for the
Politics for the People
With Author Lois Leveen
Sunday, June 3rd at 7 pm EST.