Art on Fire by Hilary Sloin

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Winner of American Library Association Stonewall Book Award/Barbara Gittings Literature Award 2014

Young, wild, and subversive artist Francesca deSilva lived hard and died young in a tragic fire that also destroyed most of her art. Growing up in the shadow of her brilliant sister Isabella, Francesca was always second best. Overlooked by her parents, she turned to her grandmother, whose adoration shriveled to rejection when Francesca was caught in bed with the chess genius Lisa Sinsong on her eighteenth birthday. Francesca fled home and began her bohemian life in a ramshackle cabin working at the local flea market. Then she began to paint. To her confusion—and even dismay—she became an overnight sensation, acclaimed as the founding mother of “pseudo-realism.” Until the fateful night she returned home to put the past to rest. Art on Fire is the pseudo-biography of Francesca’s short but colorful life, interspersed with essays on her paintings by critics, academics, and psychologists. These razor-sharp satires on art, lesbian life, and the academic world, puncture pretentiousness with every paragraph.


Praise for Art on Fire

“Let this one seep into your mind and work its magic on you. It’s the superb craftsmanship of a master storyteller at work.”—Out in Print

“Love of storytelling is evident in her masterful debut novel. . . . Art on Fire is alive with passion, humor, and real truth.” —Lambda Literary Review

“It is difficult to believe this is Hilary Sloin’s debut novel, so thoughtfully constructed it is and so intensely readable. This reader was so convinced that Francesca de Silva was a real painter until combing history of art books and even wikipedia proved otherwise that Sloin caught me thoroughly.”—Grady Harp, Literary Aficionado

Readers at Amazon love the book too:

Art on Fire is simply one of the best books I’ve read in a long, long time. It is obvious that Hilary Sloin has taken great delight in crafting her characters and the specific world in which they reside. At times I felt like I was experiencing a ventriloquist at her best, so in tune is Sloin with the rhythm and voices of her charges. . . . Art on Fire is a book worthy of notice, so read it, pass it on, buy it for a friend who deserves something of quality in her life these days.” —Merry

“This is a fantastic book. I started reading and I couldn’t put it down… it was starting to get light outside when I finished it,—stayed up all night… Great story told with insight, passion and humor. Art on Fire should be on the list of every reading group!” —nperman

“Sloin’s brilliant sendup of the 1980s art world and criticism, this fictional biography of Francesca de Silva fairly snaps and crackles with freshness, intelligence and wry humor. . . . Sloin’s imaginative conceit, supported by the critical essays, works brilliantly, and I can see why Art of Fire erroneously won a non-fiction prize. Those essays—and their footnotes—had so much delightful tongue in cheek in them down to the tiniest detail, I was constantly impressed, and laughing. . . . This novel is a breath of fresh air in the world of lesbian publishing. Kudos to Bywater and to Hilary Sloin for bringing something smart and new to the table.” —Diacritical(re)Mark


Art on Fire has won the following literary awards:

  • American Library Association Stonewall Book Award/Barbara Gittings Literature Award 2014
  • Ben Franklin Book Award Silver Medal Winner
  • Bywater Prize for Fiction
  • Golden Crown Literary Award
  • Shelf Unbound Writing Competition for Best Indie Book Finalist
  • ForeWord Book of the Year Finalist

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