OUR OTHER FEATURED BOOK, “WE DARE NOT WHISPER,” BY JAN NETOLICKY, CAN BE FOUND BY SCROLLING DOWN BELOW THIS POST, ALONG WITH THE FIRST TUESDAY REPLAY.
THE BOOK: Steele Secrets
PUBLISHED IN: 2016
THE AUTHOR: Andi Cumbo-Floyd
THE EDITOR: Laurie Jensen
THE PUBLISHER: Independently Published Through CreateSpace.
SUMMARY: When Mary Steele mysteriously finds herself in an old cemetery down the road from her house in a tiny mountain town, she’s not concerned. She’s not even frightened when a ghost named Moses approaches her, or when she has a standoff with a bulldozer. But when her inquiries into the history of the cemetery and the people buried there begin to draw out the worst in the members of her community, Mary begins to be afraid. Will she be able to recover history while keeping the people she loves safe?
Steele Secrets is a story of American history and racism, slavery and family, and the way mystery can lead us to healing. While completely fictional,the book is drawn from real life events where cemeteries have been destroyed – or under threat – because people do not know who is buried in them or do not care. Whether the cemeteries are in urban neighborhoods or in rural countryside, many slave cemeteries in particular and African American cemeteries in specific are under threat. These themes, historical and current events, and questions about whose responsibility it is to save these historic places are drawn together in the novel.
THE BACK STORY: The idea for Mary Steele’s story came to me after I visited ther cemetery at Neriah Baptgist Church in Buena Vista, VA. Some of my husband’s ancestors are buried there, so we had gone to visit the beautiful graveyard. In the cemetery, I saw several unmarked graves, and I knew that those stones could mark the graves of slaves, people who had been considered the property of other people in that area.
“Here’s what I know: Ghosts don’t show up for just anybody.
When it comes to fiction, it’s important to me that an author do her research—and Andi Cumbo-Floyd shined bright in this area. There’s so much history in this book, so I truly commend her for presenting it beautifully.
Mary Steele is definitely a heroine after my own heart because of her courage—something that young adult readers need more of. While in a cemetery, Mary meets Moses, a ghost with a past. The cemetery is supposed to be bulldozed; but as Mary uncovers the secrets of the cemetery, she knows she has to put a stop to it . . . as well as finding justice for those long gone.
“From the moment I met 17 year old Mary Steele, the heroine of Andi Cumbo-Floyd’s new novel Steele Secrets, I wanted to know more about her. This is a young woman of uncommon intelligence and integrity, of gentle courage and a strong heart filled with deeply sensitive emotions. Through a series of strange-but-true circumstances, Mary is moved to take a stand against racism and injustice in the small town she calls home. True to her name she demonstrates nerves of steel as she uses her intelligence and her determination to prevent the town from destroying an old and forgotten cemetery, one that holds the remains of slaves from a local plantation.” — Becca Rowan.
“Cumbo-Floyd has woven so many lovely themes throughout this book, one that she is marketing for young adults, but one this definitely older adult could not put down. These themes are vitally important for people of all ages: appreciation of our heritage, tolerance for those who are different, honoring the past, learning from our mistakes, and combatting evil with good. This would be a great book for classroom reading, or for families to read together, with much to think about and discuss.”
“Steele Secrets was a completely un-put-downable story, and inspired more than a few tears along the way. I’m so glad I got to know Mary Steele, and I’d love to read more about her and where life might take her next. Somehow, I have a feeling wherever it is and whatever she does, she’ll make it matter.”
“A secret calls out to Mary Steele. And as she follows, it opens up an unexpected world of history and danger as Mary and her friends struggle to integrate a new-found history, both hopeful and terrifying, into their small-town world.
“I have appreciated Andi Cumbo-Floyd’s previous books and was looking forward to this one, despite the change of style. I was not disappointed. Because while this is not the same kind of book that Andi has written before, it was still one that reflected her kind heart and her desire for racial reconciliation.
“Andi created a cast of strong female characters, which was my favorite aspect of this book. Mary Steele is a relatable, kind teenage girl who can just happen to talk to a ghost. She discovers that a local slave cemetery is about to be bulldozed, and she, along with her mother, friends, and other people in her town, work to save it. I appreciated that while help came in many forms, the women in the book didn’t need to be rescued, but were able to stand on their own feet to do the necessary work.
“I loved the end of the book in particular. It didn’t have the kind of resolution that one might expect, but I felt like it was honest and true, and that resonates more with me than anything else.
“Andi doesn’t back away from the harsh realities of what it meant to own people as property, and how this still has an impact on the way that many view race relations today. But she also included much hope in the narrative, and that hope allows us to accept things that are still not as we might want them to be.” — Alice Chaffins.
AUTHOR PROFILE: I’m an writer, an editor, and a farmer, and my husband and I steward a beautiful 15-acres at the edge of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. I write in the former summer kitchen, where an enslaved woman once cooked for the people who owned our house, and when I’m not writing, I help care for our 4 dogs, 4 cats, 6 goats, and 22 chickens. My other books include The Slaves Have Names and Writing Day In and Day Out, and folks can get information about those books over at my website, andilit.com.
AUTHOR COMMENTS: My first hope with anything I write is that it captures the imagination and the heart of the reader. If I do that, everything else is just cake. But in this book, of course, I’m also hoping people become more aware of the threat to enslaved people’s burial places, and I’m hoping that people come to see that racism – as much as we wish it wasn’t so – is still quite alive and well and active today. Perhaps, Mary Steele’s voice will echo with her readers for a while, and perhaps they will love her and come to love who and what she loves.
SAMPLE CHAPTER: Readers can download the first chapter right here on my site – andilit.com/steele-secrets.
LOCAL OUTLETS: Locally in Virginia, the book is available at Fork Union Pharmacy and the Fork Union Village Restaurant.
WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: IndieBound, Amazon, Barnes & noble, Kobo, iBooks, and Smashwords