Redwood and Wildfire

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Press: Aqueduct Press; First edition (February 28, 2011)
Author Name:Hairston, Andrea


Winner of the 2011 James Tiptree Jr. 
Award, Redwood and Wildfire is a novel of what might have been.
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.'' Gifted performers and hoodoo conjurors, they struggle to call up the wondrous world they imagine, not just on stage and screen, but on city streets, in front parlours, 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.
''Redwood and Wildfire is richly epic, moving from Georgia swamps to Chicago theaters, giving us conjure women and actors and haints and businessmen, acts of horrific cruelty and of wild courage.
But it is also an intimate love story of two people groping toward each other when no one else in the entire world thinks they should be together.
Told in a fresh voice, Redwood and Aidan's story will move you in ways you don't expect, even as it offers glimpses of that magical world lying behind this one.''-- Nancy Kress, author of Nano Comes to Clifford Falls and Probability Moon ''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 for you.'' --Pearl Cleage, What Looks Like Crazy On An Ordinary Day and Baby Brother's Blues ''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.'' --Nisi Shawl, author of Filter House

About the Author

Andrea Hairston is a Professor of Theatre and Afro-American Studies at Smith College, as well as the Artistic Director of Chrysalis Theatre. 
Her first novel, Mindscape, which was short-listed for the Philip K.
Dick and James Tiptree Awards, was awarded the Carl Brandon Society's Parallax Award.
Her plays have been produced at Yale Rep, Rites and Reason, the Kennedy Center, Stage West, and on Public Radio and Television.
She has received many awards for her writing and directing, including an NEA Grant to Playwrights, a Ford Foundation grant to collaborate with Senegalese Master Drummer Massamba Diop, and a Shubert Fellowship for Playwriting.


Literature & Fiction,African American,Historical,Genre Fiction,Historical,Fantasy,Science Fiction & Fantasy,Science Fiction

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Comment List (Total:13)

  •     I keep trying to type up this review and then stalling in the middle and rebooting my browser and losing it.
  •     I was captivated by the strength and magic of this book in the opening lines where Redwood and her family are fleeing for their lives in the post Civil War racist south. Redwood grows up knowing that the magic in her separates her from other people, but it is a deep spiritual gift passed on to her. She also knows that Aidan Wildfire, a mountain man of Cherokee and Irish descent is one of the few people like her. Each has lived through horrific events but share a bond that enable them to find the courage to fight for their lives and for the lives of the people they love. They travel through time, across the continent to pursue dreams. This is also a fascinating exploration of the evolution of theater and the roles it presented to non-whites at the turn of the 20th century. Theater becomes Redwood's life and she takes it forward in a new vision of truth and expression, away from the minstrel stereotype. Redwood and Wildfire find salvation in this new vision and in each other in spite of the adversities that confront them in their new lives. Andrea Hairston's use of dialog is wonderful. She captures an innocence and hope that lives in all of us who live in a challenging world of wonder and skepticism. I'm looking forward to her next book!
  •     Ms. Hairston has created a tour de force of lush, rich language, colorful multi-layered characters I will miss, and a story took root in my mind and heart.
  •     Redwood and Wildfire is the electric novel you've always wanted to read, but never thought existed. Hairston creates an intoxicating blend of history and magic, romance and...
  •     A story worth telling reaches into the past, which we often think we see clearly, stands in the present, and reaches into the future for that which we dream is true.
  •     In Redwood & Wildfire, author Andrea Hairston gently carries readers into the deep end, while letting us know we can swim.
  •     I am a very picky reader; I like tight writing and character-driven stories and from the first page, Redwood and Wildfire had me.
  •     Although a bit lengthy, this book makes a strong contribution to the world of multicultural speculative fiction. Hairston's intertexuality (you'll encounter sly jokes and references to early 20th century African-American texts) elevates the novel and gives readers the opportunity to ponder an alternative view of history.
  •     Redwood and Wildfire by Andrea Hairston is engaging from the very first page. Redwood just pulled me in. This is a book that does so much.
  •     I just finished reading Redwood and Wildfire (at 2am in the morning). As you can tell by the time I finished it, I could not put it down.
  •     I love this novel, which is both like and unlike Mindscape, Hairston's first. It's got the same wild, inventive language, the same intensity, the same concerns with race, sexuality and art. Like Mindscape it's full of violence, of grief and of joy and on occasion it's very moving. But the book is more immediately accessible than Mindscape: its storyline is much clearer, focused on two central characters, an African-American woman (Redwood) and a part-Cherokee man (Wildfire). The many brilliantly-drawn minor characters add to the canvas but don't confuse it. Further, it isn't science-fiction: it's American magic realism, set in the rural Georgia and Chicago of a hundred years ago, in which hoodoo magic plays an essential role. It's not quite like any other novel I know.Redwood is an artist--a singer, actor and (eventually) a film Director. Like her mother, she has a capacity for hoodoo which both helps her and hinders her. The book opens when she is a child and her mother is lynched, and it follows her as she grows into her abilities--to understand and influence animals and to make art. Her development follows a movement (with a couple of blues players) from a small town in Georgia to Chicago, then the center of the silent film industry. Wildfire, who loves her and eventually follows her to Chicago, is a conflicted and sometimes self-hating combination of Irish and Seminole. The movement of the novel involves the gradual maturing of their relationship, their capacity to heal one another, and to make an art that is adequate to their lived experience.One can read the novel for various things. The plot itself grabs you and brings you along. But its language is extraordinary--I heard Hairston read a chapter aloud and was swept away. The book also gives a wonderful sense of the sound and feel of the South and the Midwest a century ago, and an introduction to the world of the silent film industry. Finally, while it sounds sentimental to say so, for all its violence and grittiness the novel is really a celebration of love and the possibility of human growth. In this way it's also like Mindscape. It's wonderful work.
  •     This book combines touches of fantasy with a gripping tale about racial divides and struggles at a significant time in US history. It moves from a southern swamp to the sprawling city of Chicago, all the while revealing more and more about its intriguing characters. In some ways the author's style reminds me of another favorite novel, The Night Circus.
  •     I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I first cracked open Redwood and Wildfire. I was ill prepared for this densely woven, free-spirited kind of writing mixing a horrific lynching, a girl who can catch a hurricane in her hand, stories from an irish/seminole drunkard's life, cooning in Chicago vaudeville, and the kindness of a country doctor lending poetry books to white trash and coloreds in rural Georgia.Running through the prose is the pulsing, visceral awareness of body; skin, color, breath, and blood, in all the characters.We join Redwood Phipps as she loses her mother, grows up in the Georgia swamps as a colored hoodoo gal in a town where that makes her feared by all, and dances around half-Irish/half-Seminole Aidan who tries to make his own place in the world through a fog of haint-haunting and alcohol.Both travel to Chicago where they find their own places as entertainers.This is not an easy book to read; it's definitely for adults. You can't sit down and gulp it. The narrative is a bit opaque sometimes, either due to dialect or the author's fancy, I don't know, but even when the story takes us hard places, you can't give up on Redwood or Aidan or any of their hard-living and hard-used friends.You read to pass through the hard times, to shake your fist at the boneyard baron and do a little hoodoo healing on yourself, no matter your own color or background.I felt as if someone had taken The Color Purple and mixed it with some of the sad-tinged wonder of Gabriel Garcia Marquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude as I read Redwood and Aidan's tale.Definitely something you should read, but only if you're emotionally prepared.This Book's Snack Rating: A handful of pistachios for the sometimes-painful shell of race, violence, and discrimination you crack to get to the honey-sweet nut of Aidan and Redwood's magic inside.

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