Second Sunday: Lois Leveen & Juliet’s Nurse

Posted By:  Tina Walker Davis
Date Posted:  10/27/2014

Lois Leveen “Why is riffing on—and ripping off—Shakespeare so incredibly enticing?” Author Lois Leveen posed this very question, and it’s one she asked herself while writing her own Shakespearean riff, the novel Juliet’s Nurse. In the book, Leveen imagines the 14 years leading up to the events in Romeo and Juliet as told by the woman who was both insider and outsider among the wealthy families of Verona. “I realized I hadn’t actually read the play since high school,” says Leveen. “I pulled my copy off the shelf, devoured it in a single sitting, and happily discovered the nurse was every bit as ribald, comic and tragic a character as any novelist could hope for.”

Leveen will discuss all things history, Shakespeare and writing at her upcoming Second Sunday event at the Downtown Bend Library on November 9, 2014 at 2 p.m. This monthly celebration of the written word and Pacific Northwest authors is free and open to the public.

Leveen is no stranger to historical fiction. Her last book, The Secrets of Mary Bowser, was based on the true story of a freed African American slave who returned to Virginia at the onset of the Civil War to spy on the Confederates. “I write historical fiction because I love learning about the past, and I want to share what I learn with readers—in the form of a great story filled with compelling characters,” says Leveen. She adds, “I love doing the historical research. I’m fascinated about how people lived in different times, what their experiences were like.”

The story for her most recent book came to Leveen by accident. She was struggling with another novel that wasn’t coming together when the title Juliet’s Nurse made its way into her head. That set her to studying Romeo and Juliet—a play she had not read since high school. “In the nurse’s first scene we hear this amazing backstory: she had a daughter who was born the same day as Juliet but died. What was it like to lose one child, and then immediately take comfort in caring for another?,” says Leveen. Asking, and answering, that question served as the inspiration for her intriguing journey into this parallel history of Romeo and Juliet.

Lois Leveen is a novelist, poet, educator and historian. She earned degrees in history and literature from Harvard, the University of Southern California and the University of California at Los Angeles. Her work has appeared in numerous literary and scholarly journals, such as The New York Times, The Los Angeles Review of Books, Chicago Tribune, Huffington Post, Bitch magazine, The Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic and on NPR. Leveen gives talks about writing and history at universities, museums and libraries around the United States.

For more information about this and other library programs, please visit the library website at People with disabilities needing accommodations (alternative formats, seating or auxiliary aides) should contact Tina at 541-312-1034.

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