Former Edgemere resident releases first novel
Wednesday, 30 October 2013 11:22

My Name is Harlem now on sale online

by Nicole Rodman

    Former Edgemere resident Mary Wagner credits her parents for inspiring her to write.
    Though her family encouraged her to pursue her literary ambitions, it took Wagner a while to follow their advice.
     Before moving to the Eastern Shore town of Newark, Md., two years ago, Mary Wagner spent 65 years of her life in Edgemere.
    “I was raised with a wonderful brother and sister and had hard-working and loving parents that really gave me the inspiration to want to write,” Wagner noted in an e-mail to The Eagle last week.
    Born Mary Karacoulakis, Wagner graduated from Sparrows Point High School in 1964 and went to work with the National Security Agency at Fort Meade, Md.
    She started taking classes at Essex Community College at age 21. She would go on to earn her associate of arts degree from Dundalk Community College in 1995 at age 49.
    As the years passed, Wagner married and raised a son, working at RCA/NASA Logistics, Uniroyal and Lockheed Martin Aerospace along the way.

She did do some writing prior to her first novel. She wrote her first published piece for her church, St. Luke Roman Catholic Church in Edgemere.
    “It was about my family and how prayer got all of us through my mother’s illness almost 60 years ago,” Wagner recalled. “It was only a page and a half, but reading it over and over brings me back to those days and my heart starts to sink a little because my mother and father are no longer here.”   
    Retiring from her job at Lockheed Martin, Wagner was finally able to work on a longer writing project.
    The fruit of those efforts, My Name is Harlem, is now available on
    My Name is Harlem is the story of Harlem Rose O’Brannan, a biracial child living in the Bronx in New York City during the 1950s.
    Harlem and her single mother live in the projects, coping with gangs and violence as Harlem’s mother struggles to improve their lot in life.
    Along the way, Harlem ends up in the New York City foster care system.
    Through the help of a nun and a police officer, Harlem is saved from foster care and makes her way to her white grandfather in West Virginia.
    A biracial child in the 1950s, Harlem faces racism and other hardships, though she never loses her sense of self.
    According to Wagner, she wrote the book as a way to explore what it would be like to be a biracial child or her white grandfather living in the mountains in the 1950s.
    The book also touches on themes including bullying, redemption and rising above tough circumstances.
    As Wagner explained, “The book gets across the message that, no matter how poor you are or where you live, that everyone has a chance to get ahead in life and become the man or woman they choose to be as long as they work hard enough to fulfill that dream.”
    As Wagner noted, My Name is Harlem contains no sexually-explicit content or foul language.
    “It is a story that the whole family can read,” she explained.
    And at just 180 pages, Wagner noted that the book “is short and easy to read.”
    Though Wagner’s first novel has been decades in the making, it did not take her long to complete her book. She wrote the entire manuscript in just four months — from April to August.
    Not wanting to pay for an agent or go through a publisher, she decided to self-publish through CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.
    CreateSpace helps aspiring authors publish their work, providing assistance on cover art and printing the finished product.
     Now that her first novel has been released, Wagner has turned her attention to her next project.
    Though it is in the early stages, Wagner’s next book is inspired by a frog-shaped rock in the creek beside her sister’s home in the mountains of North Carolina.
    In the meantime, Mary Wagner’s first novel, My Name is Harlem, is available for purchase on the Amazon website at