According to her website biography, novelist, essayist, and playwright Andrea Hairston “bikes at night year round, meeting bears, multi-legged creatures of light and breath, and the occasional shooting star.” Will Do Magic for Small Change blends West African religion and history, magic, science fiction, theater, and the life of a Pittsburgh teen in the 1980s, and was hailed as “[a] beautifully multifaceted story…with deep, layered, powerful characters” by N.K. Jemisin in a review in the New York Times.
Cinnamon Jones dreams of stepping on stage and acting her heart out like her famous grandparents, Redwood and Wildfire. But at 5'10" and 180 pounds, she's theatrically challenged. Her family life is a tangle of mystery and deadly secrets, and nobody is telling Cinnamon the whole truth. Before her older brother died, he gave Cinnamon The Chronicles of the Great Wanderer, a tale of a Dahomean warrior woman and an alien from another dimension who perform in Paris and at the 1893 Chicago World's Fair. The Chronicles may be magic or alien science, but the story is definitely connected to Cinnamon's family secrets. When an act of violence wounds her family, Cinnamon and her theatre squad determine to solve the mysteries and bring her worlds together.
Lonely Stardust brings us the texts of nine marvelous works of scholarly performance as well as two works of drama in which the fantastic shows us the way through despair. In several of the pieces here, Hairston's sharp, visionary eye examines Hollywood blockbusters and finds a great deal to think about, even as she impatiently slices through hackneyed received views that do popular culture and its fans no favors. Taken together, these essays and plays broadcast a message of hope and intelligence that defiantly insists that our ability and desire to tell stories defines our humanity and is one of our most valuable resources.
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. 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 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 Aidans 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.