Redwood and Wildfire
Locus 2011 Recommended Reading List
At the turn of the 20th century, minstrel shows transform into vaudeville, which slides into moving pictures. Hunkering together in dark theatres, diverse audiences marvel at flickering images. This "dreaming in public" becomes common culture and part of what transforms immigrants and "native" born into Americans. Redwood, an African American woman, and Aidan, a Seminole Irish man, journey from Georgia to Chicago, from haunted swampland to a "city of the future." They are gifted performers and hoodoo conjurors, struggling to call up the wondrous world they imagine, not just on stage and screen, but on city streets, in front parlors, in wounded hearts. The power of hoodoo is the power of the community that believes in its capacities to heal and determine the course of today and tomorrow. Living in a system stacked against them, Redwood and Aidan's power and talent are torment and joy. Their search for a place to be who they want to be is an exhilarating, painful, magical adventure. Blues singers, filmmakers, haints, healers, and actors work their mojo for adventure, romance, and magic from Georgia to Chicago!
Click here for an interview of Andrea Hairston talking about Redwood & Wildfire, as well as Bertolt Brecht, narrative, politics, and art.
"Redwood and Wildfire moved me, excited me, involved me deeply in the
lives of people I wanted so actively to follow and learn more about.
Andrea Hairston's lush prose perfectly suits the story she tells here of
dreamers who travel far on the strength of their dreams: across continents,
back and forth through time, and at one point literally out of this world.
Drawing on inheritances rooted in lands of myth, Aidan and Sequoia gift one
another with a love as generous as freedom as they struggle alongside
other, equally interesting characters to manifest the deep abundance that
is rightfully theirs. This book is an affirmation of the power of joy to
transform the world, and reading it will make you sing like a bird while
wishing for wings with which to fly."
"Andrea Hairston's writing has the capacity to take you places you had no
idea you even wanted to go until she drops you down where you least
expected and invites you to make yourself at home. Redwood and Wildfire
carries us along on an amazing journey of struggle and spirit, love and
loss, its wisdom ultimately coming from Hairston's extraordinary ability to
illuminate the mysterious power that only comes with surrender to the
things we know, but can't always see. For her long time admirers, this is
the book we've been waiting for her to write. For those just discovering
her work, welcome to a brand new world. Andrea Hairston has been waiting
Reviews"Redwood and Wildfire is a book full of intensity....Redwood and Aidan Wildfire are sympathetic characters who are easy to root for, and their journeys takes us through landscapes and cultures that we may never have encountered otherwise. (Who knew there was a thriving film industry in Chicago before the first World War?)....[T]he reader emerges with greater understanding and empathy for a time period that is easily as distant and alien to us as any hundred-years-hence science fictional world." (read the whole review)
—Karen Burnham, Strange Horizons September 23, 2011.
"Here's an unconventional fantasy for you, set within the theater
community around 1890. Two very different performers travel to Chicago
where they become part of the world of minstrel shows and vaudeville. One
is half Native American, the other a voodoo practitioner. There's a good
deal of peripheral magic, some of it ambiguous, involving such things as
mind reading and out of body experiences, and these are contrasted with the
technological wonders being displayed at the current World's Fair. It's
also about the role of art in transforming society. This is a very
ambitious book, and it’s far enough out of the mainstream of fantasy that
it might daunt many potential readers. Comparisons are imperfect,
particularly with really original work, but this should appeal to fans of
John Crowley or Tim Powers."
"For some time now there's been hope that fresh directions in fantastic or
speculative literature might come from black diasporic writers—that the
world's next Tolkien or Heinlein might be brown or beige. With her second
novel, Redwood and Wildfire, Andrea Hairston edges up alongside Minister
Faust and Nnedi Okorafor to become a serious contender for that
(read the whole review)
"Murder, magic, and the transformative power of music are just a few
of the things touched on in this vivid historical fantasy novel about two
dreamers, an Irish-Seminole man and a hoodoo queen, who leave their
backwoods Georgia home for the bright lights of Chicago at the beginning of
the 20th century."
"If you're looking for magic on a shelf, you'd do well to Andrea
Hairston's Redwood and Wildfire, an engrossing, hilarious, surreal history
of magic as it is often practiced in the United States of America; that is,
in those moments when we try to make movies, music, poetry,
stories—entertainment. And just to keep everything self-referential,
here's a book about entertainment that is more entertaining than most of
the sorts of entertainment it describes....Hairston's novel is populated by
characters who do not leave your side after you've closed the book, but
instead remain right there, in your life, and in your mind."
(read the whole review)
Hairston's work, on stage and page alike, insistently searches for signs
that humans can overcome their divisions and oppressions, both external and
self-inflicted. This book's geographical, emotional and spiritual journeys,
spanning the early years of the 20th century, are odysseys of
self-discovery and healing from wounds of the body and soul. The novel
mirrors the eclectic, cross-cultural composition of the Chrysalis company
and Hairston's own background—a multiracial
poet-playwright-actor-musician-scholar who draws nourishment from diverse
(read the whole review)
ISBN: 978-1-933500-52-2 (13 digit)