O, Africa!


Micah and Izzy Grand are the stars of silent films in the year 1928. The descendants of Jewish immigrants, they are self-made men; Micah is the genius behind the script of each movie, and Izzy is the talented cameraman. Their personalities couldn’t, however, be more different, with Micah being rambunctious and wild in all he does and Izzy being the rational, technical and controlled brother. The melding of their gifts and weaknesses makes the risks they take both admirable and outrageously shocking.

Micah’s affair with an African-American lady and an outstanding, huge debt force them to accept a job in Africa. The goals are to can stunning background scenes that will be rented to other movie producers and secretly make a film spanning African-American history from slavery to the present jazz age in New York, with its beauty and ugliness equally depicted. This is the story of their life with the tribe of Malwiki, set in the heartland of Africa with mind-numbing, primitive scenes, where the Grand brothers will bring such immense happiness and devastating tragedy. Still, when all is said and done, the effort was worth it all, wasn’t it?

There isn’t one stereotypical character in this unique story. Add to that the phenomenal literary style used in Conn’s descriptions of characters, settings, and the narrator’s reflections, and you have an amazing read that has been compared to the writings of Saul Bellow and Michael Chabon. This reviewer believes it stands admirably on its own as a remarkable work of historical fiction.

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12 of the best stories selected from the 2012 Historical Novel Society Short Story Award







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