NPR

Civil War Story Of Northern Secession Inspires Novel

"The Hidden Light of Northern Fires" tells the story of Mary, who uses her New York farm as an Underground Railroad stop during the Civil War, a risky venture because her town has seceded from the Union.
The Hidden Light of Northern Fires, by Daren Wang. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

In his debut novel “The Hidden Light of Northern Fires,” Daren Wang tells the story of Mary, who uses her New York farm as an Underground Railroad stop for escaped slaves during the Civil War. It’s a risky venture because her town has seceded from the Union.

As Wang (@darenwang) tells Here & Now‘s Jeremy Hobson, he was inspired to write the novel by his childhood home in Town Line, New York, which seceded from the Union during the Civil War and didn’t rejoin it until 1946.

Interview Highlights

On his childhood home, Town Line, New York, which seceded from the Union in 1861

“We had always heard stories about the secession. The Town Line Fire Department, their shoulder patch says, ‘Last of the Rebels: 1865 to 1946’ on it. So it’s kind of the little town, the little hamlet’s identity, really.”

On the house he grew up in, which was part of the Underground Railroad

“That part was a little bit more hidden, I think would be the term, because we’d had rumors about it being an Underground Railroad station, but we also heard ghost stories about the front house as well, and it all — you know, if you’re growing up, you’re 5 or 6 years old, it all kind of melds together. And I left that place when I was a fairly young child. It was only years later that I found an oral history of the Willis

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from NPR

NPR4 min read
Brad Pitt On Making 'Ad Astra,' Processing Trauma And Channeling David Bowie
The actor stars in a new science-fiction blockbuster about more than just an astronaut on a space mission: "We wanted to do something very sincere and raw and painfully honest," he says.
NPR5 min read
He's Trying To Fill In The Gaps On Google Street View — Starting With Zimbabwe
Not every corner of the world is yet on Google Street View. Tawanda Kanhema sees these gaps as a kind of digital divide, so he volunteers to photograph and upload some of the places left off the map.
NPR2 min read
For A Black Woman In The Military, Harassment Was Its Own Battle
At StoryCorps, retired Col. Denise Baken says the challenges she faced as both a woman and an African American in the Army weighed her down over time, mentally and physically.