As readers and writers orbiting and inhabiting Luna Station, it’s a safe bet that most of us seek out not only fiction and poetry, but editorials, articles, and tweets about “strong female characters.” We apply the Bechdel Test to everything. We demand an answer: where are the women?
I submit to you Karen Lord’s Redemption in Indigo. Here is a gem of a book, a genuine story, which interweaves character and tale so seamlessly that I began to believe it was real. There are plenty of synopses on Goodreads and various SFF sites (all of which seem to reiterate that the book is a quasi-retelling of a Senegalese folktale, so I will reiterate that here for you as well), but I avoided these reviews before diving into the book, and I’m glad I did. Just in case you like a little preamble: Redemption in Indigo is a morality tale wrapped up in an adventure; also it’s a dramedy and a love story. I’ll tell you a bit more: there’s djombis and a chaos stick and a gluttonous husband and wise women and talking animal-gods. Yes! Oh – wait – didn’t I just prattle on in a previous review about how I’m not much for fantastical whimsy? Oops. Well, this is just the right touch – I appreciated the wisdom here and the story’s multi-faceted female lead. And hmmm…I think it all resonates with me because Robin Miles narrates Redemption in Indigo.
There are great readers. There are skilled narrators and talented voice artists. And then someone comes along who has all of that, and MAGIC. Miles is magic, I’m telling you. I completely forgot that she was a separate being – I heard only each individual character. I lived in this book as Robin Miles’ vocal chords gave life to Karen Lord’s characters. From a sly spider to a stick bug to our heroine Paama and the indigo-skinned djombi.
Miles brings a palette of so many unique characteristics for each persona. As soon as a new someone came to be introduced in the novel, my eagerness to hear how this person (or bug, or animal!) might speak was as great as my anticipation to hear the rest of the story.
I had the great fortune to interview Robin Miles via Skype – what a blast! She’s an actress, a voice artist, and she owns her own recording and training company, VOXpertise. As a well-known director of audio recordings, she is especially esteemed for her ability to manage large cast recordings, like her production of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. She has an innate gift for accents – she can go from a manly Scottish brogue to a lilting Jamaican patois in a heartbeat, and has a keen ear for the subtle intricacies of regional dialects.
Her background as an actress serves her well; I asked her how she related to the character of Paama, and she responded with a deeper comment on the embodiment of all characters, for example, a spider. “Imagine being really thin and leggy – does that do anything to your voice?” Miles definitely knows how to combine years of experience and training with what she dubs “the emotional reality” that must propel a scene. “I tend to let my first impressions land,” she says. “Because instincts are to be heeded. I want to tell that to all women.”