Redwood and Wildfire - Andrea Hairston

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Publisher: Aqueduct Press

Categories: Afrofuturism; fantasy; Feminist;

Winner of the 2011 James Tiptree, Jr. Award.

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.

Advance Praise

"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

"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, author of What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day

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."
—Don D'Ammassa, Fantasy Reviews May 29, 2011.

"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 role." (read the whole review)
—Carol Cooper, The Village Voice, February 23, 2011

"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."
Locus, New and Notable, May 2011

"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)
—Rick Kleffel, The Agony Column, June 8, 2011

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 traditions. (read the whole review)
Valley Advocate, March 18, 2011