Will Do Magic For Small Change
by Andrea Hairston
Review by Mel Jacob
Aqueduct Press Trade Paperback / eBook ISBN/ITEM#: 9781619761018
Date: 01 June 2016
A rap serenade, Andrea Hairston's Will Do Magic for Small Change is reminiscent of Octavia Butler's novels including Wild Seed. Butler explored some of the same themes of African history and heritage, but her novels were more of a ballad than a rap song. The Hairston novel alternates between a recent past, 1890s, and the present.
The novel opens at the funeral for a family member and drug addict. He guarded a chronicle he has bequeathed to Cinnamon, a girl of an extended and colorful family. It details the history of a Dahomey warrior woman and the Wanderer, a strange being from elsewhere.
The woman, fleeing her enemies and carrying a dying man on her back, hides in a cave. There she encounters an alien life form. The alien tries to help but is unable to save the man. She kills the dying man to save him from enemies.
The story alternates between Cinnamon and her colorful extended family and the warrior woman's journey. All are part of Cinnamon's family history.
In this novel, Hairston provides colorful people and language, some little known aspects of African history, and more than 460 pages of story. She has written both fiction and nonfiction including another novel Redwood and Foxfire, as well as shorter pieces and plays. She also published critical essays on Octavia Butler, speculative theater, and popular culture.
Some readers may find the switching between stories and people confusing at times. Others may be turned away by one or more aspects of some of the characters. Overall, Hairston provides a fresh look at mixed families with complex backgrounds.