Forest Park novelist Devin Andrews with pet. (Courtesy Facebook)

Do you have a novel in you? Forest Parker Devin M.L. Andrews did—he’s been writing poems and stories since his childhood growing up on Chicago’s West Side.

Andrews, who is an active member of St. John Lutheran Church, decided to jump into novel writing during the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) challenge last November. 

Thanks to the technological breakthroughs of self-publishing, and print-on-demand, Andrews was able to publish his book, Family Secrets: When things done in darkness become illuminated in paperback this summer. Now he has taken to Facebook to promote the book to his family and Forest Park friends.

Family Secrets explores the contradictory life of a light-skinned man of Creole heritage who has “passed” for white for many years, claiming to be part Lebanese. The scene opens in a Forest Park-like tavern setting with protagonist David Kleindienst agonizing about how to tell his white girlfriend he is part African American.

 “By passing for white, he gets to see and experience the advantages of being white in America,” Andrews said. “He also notices, as an outsider, what life is like for blacks who cannot pass.”

“He notices how limited their opportunities for advancement are–even those with the best efforts and intentions,” Andrews added. “Naturally, he wants to continue to pass so that he can go as far as his efforts can take him in life.” 

The story circles around Grand’Mere, the stern, opinionated matriarch and the control she has over family. Andrews said he loosely based some family members on his own relatives, but he doesn’t have experience growing up in a Creole family. 

“I am predominantly African American.,” Andrews said. “I am also part Irish, and I come from three Native American nations: Cherokee, Chippewa, and Mescalero Apache.”

While the protagonist is Catholic, Andrews grew up a Baptist and became Lutheran as a young man. He has lived in Forest Park for four years, but has been attending St. John since 2000 and his religious beliefs are a big part of his life.

“Christianity is my life. I do my best to live as Christ would want me to live,” Andrews said. “Of course, in today’s culture, that puts me at risk for ridicule and rejection, but there is nothing the world can offer me to make me turn my back on what I know is true.”

 He said, he decided to explore how a family works when many of the members have things to hide from others. 

“While Family Secrets is fiction, the fact is, nearly every family has secrets and, as they say down South, elephants in the room,” he said.

“When an elephant in a room is ignored, it will only grow larger until it destroys the room and the entire house.”

Andrews’s 151-page book is available online through Lulu.com.

Jean Lotus

Jean Lotus loves community journalism. She covers news, features, two school boards, village council, crime, park district and writes obits for Forest Park Review. She also covers the police beat for...

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