Foxfire: Confessions of a Girl Gang

Overview

The time is the 1950s. The place is a blue-collar town in upstate New York, where five high school girls are joined in a gang dedicated to pride, power, and vengeance on a world that seems made to denigrate and destroy them. Foxfire is Joyce Carol Oates’s strongest and most unsparing novel yet—an always engrossing, often shocking evocation of female rage, gallantry, and grit. Here is the secret history of a sisterhood of blood, a haven from a world of male oppressors, marked by a liberating fury that burns too ...

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Overview

The time is the 1950s. The place is a blue-collar town in upstate New York, where five high school girls are joined in a gang dedicated to pride, power, and vengeance on a world that seems made to denigrate and destroy them. Foxfire is Joyce Carol Oates’s strongest and most unsparing novel yet—an always engrossing, often shocking evocation of female rage, gallantry, and grit. Here is the secret history of a sisterhood of blood, a haven from a world of male oppressors, marked by a liberating fury that burns too hot to last. Above all, it is the story of Legs Sadovsky, with her lean, on-the-edge, icy beauty, whose nerve, muscle, hate, and hurt make her the spark of Foxfire, its guiding spirit, its burning core. At once brutal and lyrical, this is a careening joyride of a novel—charged with outlaw energy and lit by intense emotion. Amid scenes of violence and vengeance lies this novel’s greatest power: the exquisite, astonishing rendering of the bonds that link the Foxfire girls together. Foxfire reaffirms Joyce Carol Oates’s place at the very summit of American writing.

Oates's most powerful work yet, now in a trade paper edition. Foxfire chronicles the life of five unforgettably real teenage girls in upstate New York in the 1950s. This controversial, topical tale captures the exhilaration of conspiracy, the blaze of youth, and the inevitable end of violence.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
It was between the ages of thirteen and seventeen that I belonged to FOXFIRE and FOXFIRE made sacred those years.'' Madeleine Faith Wirtz narrates Oates's 22nd novel in first-person promiscuous, chronicling intimately the violent comings and goings of a communard and her female teenaged outfit: Foxfire, a gang set up in smalltown, upstate Hammond, N.Y., during the 1950s. Maddy and her four cohorts find strength in numbers. Together they assault and kill, their main victims being adult men who have have exploited them. The novel is written years afterward from the vantage point of skeptical adulthood when Maddy has gone respectable and looks over the notebooks she had kept during her Foxfire days. In the course of reminiscing, Maddy recovers the group's ardor, the sense of oppression and reckless abandon, and then tempers it. The novel is true to Oates and her oeuvre, revisiting some of the themes of her earliest work -- female delinquency and survival -- while seeking to expand the canvas into a group portrait. The author grittily evokes the hectic, heated power surges of self-taught feminist anarchists; in her prose she walks a delicate line between the raw and the literary, the wildly ignorant and the wisely knowing.
Library Journal
Oates, one of America's most distinguished and prolific writers, has triumphed again with this deftly crafted, highly imaginative novel about a girl gang called Foxfire and its leader, Legs Sadovsky. Legs is many things: a female Robin Hood, a Marxist revolutionary, a highly intelligent naif, an incredibly bold, indestructible heroine. Legs, who is wise beyond her years, dominates Foxfire with her superiority. But Legs is not a writer; that responsibility she delegates to Maddy Wirtz, who becomes the official chronicler of Foxfire's history. Later in life, in search of elusive truth, Maddy returns to her notebooks and relives her Foxfire days of the 1950s, a decade she and her female contemporaries of all ages experienced through violence, fear, and oppression. The forces that gave rise to Foxfire and the bonds that kept it together raise many interesting questions about gender, social status, and sexuality. As in any Oates novel, these multiple themes intertwine to create a richly textured piece.
Library Journal
Oates, one of America's most distinguished and prolific writers, has triumphed again with this deftly crafted, highly imaginative novel about a girl gang called Foxfire and its leader, Legs Sadovsky. Legs is many things: a female Robin Hood, a Marxist revolutionary, a highly intelligent naif, an incredibly bold, indestructible heroine. Legs, who is wise beyond her years, dominates Foxfire with her superiority. But Legs is not a writer; that responsibility she delegates to Maddy Wirtz, who becomes the official chronicler of Foxfire's history. Later in life, in search of elusive truth, Maddy returns to her notebooks and relives her Foxfire days of the 1950s, a decade she and her female contemporaries (of all ages) experienced through violence, fear, and oppression. The forces that gave rise to Foxfire and the bonds that kept it together raise many interesting questions about gender, social status, and sexuality. As in any Oates novel, these multiple themes intertwine to create a richly textured piece.
-- Faye A. Chadwell, University of South Carolina Library, Columbia
-- Faye A. Chadwell, University of South Carolina Library, Columbia
-- Faye A. Chadwell, University of South Carolina Library, Columbia
-- Faye A. Chadwell, University of South Carolina Library, Columbia
-- Faye A. Chadwell, University of South Carolina Library, Columbia
-- Faye A. Chadwell, University of South Carolina Library, Columbia
-- Faye A. Chadwell, University of South Carolina Library, Columbia
-- Faye A. Chadwell, University of South Carolina Library, Columbia
-- Faye A. Chadwell, University of South Carolina Library, Columbia
-- Faye A. Chadwell, University of South Carolina Library, Columbia
-- Faye A. Chadwell, University of South Carolina Library, Columbia
-- Faye A. Chadwell, University of South Carolina Library, Columbia
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780452272316
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 8/28/1994
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 420,616
  • Lexile: 1520L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.36 (w) x 8.05 (h) x 0.73 (d)

Meet the Author

Joyce Carol Oates

In addition to many prize-winning and bestselling novels, including We Were the Mulvaneys, Black Water, and Because It Is Bitter and Because It Is My Heart (available in Plume editions), Joyce Carol Oates is the author of a number of works of gothic fiction including Haunted: Tales of the Grotesque (Plume), a 1995 World Fantasy Award nominee; and Zombie (Plume), winner of the 1996 Bram Stoker Award for Best Horror Novel, awarded by the Horror Writers' Association. In 1994, Oates received the Bram Stoker Lifetime Achievement Award in Horror Fiction. She is the editor of American Gothic Tales and her latest novel is Broke Heart Blues (Dutton). She lives in Princeton, New Jersey.

Biography

Joyce Carol Oates is one of the most influential and important storytellers in the literary world. She has often used her supreme narrative skills to examine the dark side of middle-class Americana, and her oeuvre includes some of the finest examples of modern essays, plays, criticism, and fiction from a vast array of genres. She is still publishing with a speed and consistency of quality nearly unheard of in contemporary literature.

A born storyteller, Oates has been spinning yarns since she was a little girl too young to even write. Instead, she would communicate her stories through drawings and paintings. When she received her very first typewriter at the age of 14, her creative floodgates opened with a torrent. She says she wrote "novel after novel" throughout high school and college -- a prolificacy that has continued unabated throughout a professional career that began in 1963 with her first short story collection, By the North Gate.

Oates's breakthrough occurred in 1969 with the publication of them, a National Book Award winner that established her as a force to be reckoned with. Since that auspicious beginning, she has been nominated for nearly every major literary honor -- from the PEN/Faulkner Award to the Pulitzer Prize -- and her fiction turns up with regularity on The New York Times annual list of Notable Books.

On average Oates publishes at least one novel, essay anthology, or story collection a year (during the 1970s, she produced at the astonishing rate of two or three books a year!). And although her fiction often exposes the darker side of America's brightest facades – familial unrest, sexual violence, the death of innocence – she has also made successful forays into Gothic novels, suspense, fantasy, and children's literature. As novelist John Barth once remarked, "Joyce Carol Oates writes all over the aesthetical map."

Where she finds the time for it no one knows, but Oates manages to combine her ambitious, prolific writing career with teaching: first at the University of Windsor in Canada, then (from 1978 on), at Princeton University in New Jersey. For all her success and fame, her daily routine of teaching and writing has changed very little, and her commitment to literature as a transcendent human activity remains steadfast.

Good To Know

When not writing, Oates likes to take in a fight. "Boxing is a celebration of the lost religion of masculinity all the more trenchant for its being lost," she says in highbrow fashion of the lowbrow sport.

Oates's Black Water, which is a thinly veiled account of Ted Kennedy's car crash in Chappaquiddick, was produced as an opera in the 1990s.

In 2001, Oprah Winfrey selected Oates's novel We Were the Mulvaneys for her Book Club.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Rosamond Smith
    2. Hometown:
      Princeton, New Jersey
    1. Date of Birth:
      June 16, 1938
    2. Place of Birth:
      Lockport, New York
    1. Education:
      B.A., Syracuse University, 1960; M.A., University of Wisconsin, 1961

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 25 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 27, 2006

    It might be too hard for absent-minded students to comprehend, but I loved it!

    This is an extremely powerful novel, and very moving. Yes, i found it to be rather racist, but the story was taken place in the 50's and that was common in that time. Yes, the the girls in the story DO have the right to call themselves a 'gang' because the word gang simply means 'to form a group of people', and in the 50's gangs were not anything like they are nowdays, they were not fueding over 2 colors of the rainbow (red & blue)! they were money and drug launderers, thieves, or people who enjoyed causing mischief. so yes, these girls could call themselves a gang. So to the two 'students' who wrote their comments, I say, you need to stay in school and learn more about the 50's, and learn what the word 'Gang' really means (amongst other words). This is a terrific book!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 5, 2010

    Student Review

    Determined to tell nothing but the truth, the official chronicler of FOXFIRE, Maddy Wirtz, recounts the many adventures she and her friends endure during the abstract days of FOXFIRE. Being the only outlaw girl gang in Hammond, New York, five unique girls of FOXFIRE depend solely upon Legs Sadovsky, first-in-command, to get them through the day and out the Others' grasp.
    In Foxfire: Confessions of a Girl Gang, Joyce Carol Oates instills in her captivated audience a novel that will keep one alertly focused and compelled to know what happens next to the young teenage girls of FOXFIRE. Throughout the novel, imagery and sensory details are clearly evident in each passage of every page, bringing forth a live sensation of actually being able to experience the scene(s). Known to have a single paragraph to go on for pages, Oates establishes in each elongated paragraph an empathetic emotion that literally pops out at the reader, creating an unforgettable moment that forces the reader to keep on reading. It also seems as though Oates wants her readers to understand that the sisterhood of the girls in FOXFIRE means something more than just a friendship that just so happened to take on the status of being an outlaw gang.
    Although Joyce Carol Oates develops well-defined characters that bring her story to a real-life level, one character in particular stands out above all the rest; Legs Sadovsky, the leader of FOXFIRE, a heroine among the gangs, the bringer of justice to friends. In her novel, Joyce Carol Oates portrays Legs to be a female Robin Hood, but more or less for the wrong reasons because of the way Legs and her friends go about justifying what they believe to be wrong.
    But, overall, Joyce Carol Oates has written a very unique book, from the intense feelings emitted through the pages to the personalities of the characters themselves.

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  • Posted January 30, 2010

    a great book

    I enjoyed this novel. It's the kind of book that keeps you thinking about it even after you finished it.

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  • Posted November 25, 2008

    Confessions of a girl gang

    The novel Foxfire by Joyce Carol Oates is about a group of girls that become a well-known gang in upstate New York in the 1950¿s. Growing up these girl¿s lives never seemed perfect. Rita was heavy and slow when it came to school. She was made fun of and harassed be her teacher. Legs, the oldest, though rough around the edges was very hard on the girls. Her life was messed up causing her to lash out at her Foxfire girls. The others had just the same problems as Legs and Rita, but they became like sisters in their own family; doing anything to keep them all safe and happy no matter what that meant. The Foxfire girls were like tomboys and would do just about anything to keep their boyish figures making them look tough. They called themselves Foxfire swearing to the name and forever wearing the signs, all the while the world was clueless of them and their acts as well. One thing though that did not seem to make sense was if they were really a good gang then there would not be another wing of the Foxfire.<BR/><BR/>Overall I thought it was an okay book, very slow in the beginning but definitely picking up as the chapters go. Foxfire is a very detailed novel as well giving you a great idea of what the girls, places and just about everything looked and felt like. The only thing that was confusing was the flip flopping in the beginning, going from Maddy¿s (a Foxfire founder) thoughts and the over view of the narrator¿s.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 29, 2008

    Really interesting but Could be Better

    Overall this was a good book but not great. I wasn't really impressed with the ending. There was some really good scenes but at some point the story started to drag on. The story may have been more interesting if it was told from Legs point of view. Basically the book was about this group of girls that looked up to Legs and did everything she said. They werent allowed to date or hang out with other girls outside of the group. The group gets involved in all these small, petty crimes which eventually grow into bigger crimes but...the plot was enough to keep me reading but it couldv'e been better maybe if we knew more of legs and the other girls before they joined the gang?im not sure. I didnt feel a srong connection with the characters. And yes there was alot of racist terms used in the book...I do think Joyce was trying to capture the time period but she may have overdone it. This was my second book by Joyce and it was overall a good read but Man Crazy was better.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 16, 2005

    Foxfire: Confessions of a Girl Gang

    this book is terrible!!! none of these girls had any right or reason to call their group a 'gang' because i know what real gangs are like and Foxfire wouldn't last a second running with the real gangs. i kept reading hoping these girls would wise up and get lives but instead their next ideas were worse than the last. all the girls except for one are racist and all are sexist. this is without a doubt the worst book i have ever had the displeasure of being forced to read for summer reading.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 13, 2005

    Foxfire: Confessions of a Girl Gang

    i was forced to read this book as a part of my summer reading. my english teacher assured us it was a great book and we would love it. unfortunately she could not be any more mistaken. i found the book to be rather boring and pointless. basically this book is about a group of atheist, white girls who have nothing better to do than form a 'gang' and go along with whatever their 'first-in-command' wants to do. maybe if it was a true gang it would have been better. but these girls had no right to be calling their group a gang. they did not come from that kind a neighborhood and would be killed if they went to a neighborhood where real gangs are. this book is also extremely prejudiced. there are many examples of racism where the girls refer to blacks with the n word and one girl refers to herself as 'superior' to them. it is even worse to men. according to the gang 'men are the enemy'. they even take advantage of them by first prostituting themselves and then when the men think the girls want to move on to the next level the girls threaten to call the police inorder to take the men's money. in the end the girls decide to kidnap a wealthy man inorder to get a million dollars in ransom and never have to work again. well it doesn't work out, the leader dies, and the 'gang' falls apart. so basically if you are looking for a good read i suggest you do not read this book. and for all the english teachers, please never assign this book for the sake of your students happiness.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 28, 2003

    Foxfire: Confessions of a Girl Gang

    I have never read a book by Joyce Carol Oates but this is the best book I have read in years....I found that the story diplays true faith in your friends and realtionships developed between the girls that under normal circumstances would never accosiate with each other.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 15, 2002

    Fabuleous

    Foxfire: Confessions of a Girl Gang, written by Joyce Carol Oates tells the story of five young girls joined in a gang in Upstate, New York during 1950¿s, and their experiences with the outside world. The book talks about the gang and how it was based on loyalty, dedication, pride, and power. The book dealt with themes like sexual abuse, exploitation, physical violence, and vengeance.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 17, 2001

    I wish I could give more stars

    Wow...brilliant...outstanding...compulsively readable. Each character has their own unique qualities and especially Legs who keeps the book alive. Its sincere, action packed, and thought provoking. Bravo.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 9, 2001

    Foxfire Never Says Sorry!! (and for good reason; it doesn't have to)

    I absolutely loved this book!! Legs is the best character ever created by Joyce Carol Oates. The intense relationship between Legs and Maddy is what pulled me into this phenomenal tale. Read this book, and then see this movie!! Both deserve this 5-star rating!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 11, 2000

    FOXFIRE BURNS AND BURNS

    Foxfire is one of the greatest books I have read in a long time. The bond these girls share is unforgettable. The story is daring, imaginative, and heart wrenching. Legs is a awesome character. Foxfire will burn in your heart forever!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 23, 2000

    It was great

    This is one of the best books. It convinces girls to stick up for themselves. I think anyone who liked to book should also see the movie.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 1, 2000

    my review

    This is a very good book. It compels girls to take care of themselves and not let other people hold them down.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 26, 2000

    Compelling Novel

    Joyce Carol Oates is an impenatrable author and Foxfire is no exeption. She makes me wonder how to get a little bit of all the girls in me. Gripping. Brava!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 19, 2000

    girl power

    Deeply moving. compelling. sensual and yet a wake up call.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 8, 2000

    Burn Foxfire Burn

    Foxfire is one of the best books I have read. It holds a place for the time today, the female bond and sexuality was supurb. This is a must read for anyone who is faced with obsticals they cant really find a way out of. Legs Sadowsky is one great character!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 2, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted October 25, 2008

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted October 27, 2008

    No text was provided for this review.

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