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“The Underground Moon captivated me. Dimitrius is a spirited protagonist who keeps his readers close and brings a fresh and memorable voice to Civil War fiction.”
~ Author Matt de la Peña
Award-winning author of The Living, Mexican White Boy, and five other middle grade and young adult books
“The Underground Moon was good because we’re studying the Civil War in school, and when I read the book, I could see it. I could feel it.”
“I liked it that the main character was black. I wish more books we read for history had black characters in them.”
~ 7th and 8th grade students, Atlanta, Georgia
This is what most of my friends asked when I told them I was writing The Underground Moon, a book that’s set during the American Civil War. I am not a person who studies war. I have never considered myself much of a history buff, although now that I’ve studied this era, I have to say it’s pretty interesting stuff. Originally, though, my motivation came from a different place.
I wanted to hear the voices that, during my years of schooling, had always felt absent from everything I read about this period of American history. When an editor at a writer’s conference mentioned that it would be interesting to see a new Civil War novel with a male protagonist, I instantly envisioned Dimitrius, the protagonist of The Underground Moon. I wanted to hear about life from his perspective – that of a fourteen year old black teenager who was born free when all of the other black folks in town were enslaved.
The Underground Moon tells the story of Dimitrius’ adventures as he tries to help feed his family during this confusing, perilous time. My favorite characteristic of Dimitrius? He’s curious as a cat… can’t resist nosing in where he doesn’t belong, while at the same time he has the built-in caution of someone who lives at the constant edge of danger.
Here's a passage from The Underground Moon that shows what I mean.
An idea slid into [Dimitrius’] mind, slow and creeping, like a hunting snake. Tucker couldn’t go save Clara’s pa on account of his being a slave. But Dimitrius was free. … he oughta go find Mr. Thurlow and earn that money Clara’s uncle was so keen to pay.
Now the thought was inside him, it slithered around, tickling his belly and his cheeks, making him blink and grin. He walked on, not paying mind to where he was going until he stumbled and had to look up. Big Beau Satterlee was slouched in the doorway of the sawmill, watching him. His bushy eyebrows were drawn down in a frown that seemed to warn, “Whatever you’re up to, think twice.” Dimitrius hurried across the green. At the dressmakers’, where he’d ask after work for Eloise, he leaned against the glass storefront. He remembered a half dead cottonmouth he’d found in the woods once, belly-up but with its tail still thrashing. That’s how his idea felt inside him. The adults would never let him go get Mr. Thurlow. Miss Celia wouldn’t hire him in the first place. And Mama’d be mad enough to swallow him whole if he even thought of trying. If wishes were fishes we’d all eat good, he thought, pulling open the door of the shop.
Praise for The Underground Moon
“This book is absolutely brilliant! Original, gripping, and inspiring.
It brings to life the untold stories of the Civil War, drawing the reader in from the beginning and just getting better as it goes along.“
- Historian David Williams
Author of A People’s History of the Civil War and Bitterly Divided, The South’s Inner Civil War, as well as six other historical texts