The Columbus Area Art and Author Fair is on Saturday, Sept. 28, 2–6 p.m., in the lower level of Columbus Fireman’s Park Pavilion as part of the Oddtoberfest Celebration presented by the Tri-County Lodge – Oddfellows.
Each week leading up to the fair, we’ll introduce you to the artists and authors taking part. This week our focus is on two authors inspired by their personal experiences. The nonfiction book, “‘Nieggri’ in Moscow Under Gorbachev: My Life as a Foreign Student in the USSR” by Thierno H. Diallo, gives us a unique look at this key historical era. “Beneath the Flames” by Gregory Lee Renz tells the story of a rookie firefighter in Milwaukee.
Thierno H. Diallo takes the reader through his incredible six-year-journey in the former Soviet Union at the height of the cold war. While facing blatant racism (hence the title) food shortages and high crimes, he witnessed the rise and fall of Mr. Gorbachev and his perestroika, the tumbling down of the Berlin Wall and the demise of the Soviet Union itself. He meticulously narrates how thousands of foreign students survived in USSR and made it out, alive or not, and how those students and diplomats engaged in trafficking of goods and artifacts between the padlocked police state and the outside world.
Diallo has a master’s degree in agronomy from the State Agriculture Institute of Kishinev, Moldavia, one of the 15 republics of the former Soviet Union. After graduation, Diallo worked on crop and dairy farms in France, before moving to the United States. He is currently a Senior Corn Research Specialist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and owner and director of Gamou Organic Farms in Mali, a facility dedicated to training ag and veterinary students. He currently lives in Sun Prairie with his wife and two sons.
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Greg Renz’s novel, “Beneath the Flames,” is an intimate combination of love, race, and the complexities of life through the eyes of a young urban firefighter. After a fire in a neighboring farmhouse, young farmer and volunteer firefighter, Mitch Garner, blames himself for the tragic outcome and decides his only hope for redemption is to leave Jennie, the girl he’s loved since high school, and journey from his Wisconsin farm to the inner city of Milwaukee to prove himself as a professional firefighter.
Mitch is assigned to the busiest firehouse in one of the most blighted areas of Milwaukee where he’s viciously hazed by senior firefighters. Within weeks, he’s ready to quit, but his salvation comes through a tutoring program where he meets the neighborhood children and dedicates himself to helping them. The story heads to a heart-pounding conclusion as Mitch is torn between responsibilities back home and protecting one particular child from a violent street gang.
Fire Capt. Gregory Lee Renz was involved in a dramatic rescue of two little boys from their burning basement. After sharing this story in numerous settings, he was moved by the emotional responses he received and was struck by the power of his storytelling and traded his turnout gear for a writing desk. The results is his highly acclaimed debut novel. Renz lives in Lake Mills with his wife Paula and is hard at work on his next novel.
More information is available on the event page, hosted on the Columbus Library’s Facebook page. If you’re an artist or an author wishing to take part, an electronic registration form is on the Facebook event page.