By Andrew Lewis Conn
Preview by Troy Carrington
Maximalist fiction of the best kind, O, Africa! digs deep into the separate cultures of Jews, gays, African Americans in the early 20th century, and how they intersect yet remain outside the mainstream.
Micah and Izzy Grand, the twin sons of Jewish immigrants, are making a name for themselves in the slapstick silent film world of 1920s New York. Red-haired, bombastic Micah is the director, and dark, quiet Izzy works his magic behind the camera lens.
But motion pictures are changing with the times. And Micah’s penchant for gambling and a clandestine interracial affair with his costume girl, Rose, are leading him down a dark road. Izzy, a “confirmed bachelor,” harbors his own secrets. To pay off a debt, Micah enlists Izzy for adventure: the first studio film made in Africa.
Tensions boil over as the brothers arrive in Malwiki, meeting the native tribesmen and spreading chaos with the introduction of their unfamiliar cameras and celluloid reels. As Izzy finds love and acceptance for the first time in his life and Micah grapples with his feelings for Rose, violence and misunderstanding threaten the entire expedition.
O, Africa! incorporates weighty issues of racial prejudice, anti-Semitism, and closeted sexuality as it tells the timeless story of two brothers struggling with their sense of self and morality.
As a former film critic, the author infuses his story with an incredible wealth of knowledge and stunning historical accuracy, but O, Africa! is no “old timey” nostalgia trip. The novel doesn’t read like a period piece; rather it transports the reader directly into the Roaring Twenties with a phenomenal cast as they grapple with the deepest questions of identity and the meaning of the American character.
From Hogarth (crownpublishing.com/hogarth).