LONGLISTED FOR THE 2015 NATIONAL BOOK AWARD
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF 2015 BY THE WASHINGTON POST, TIME, MEN’S JOURNAL, CHICAGO TRIBUNE, KANSAS CITY STAR, BROOKLYN MAGAZINE, NPR, HUFFINGTON POST, THE DAILY BEAST, AND BUZZFEED
WINNER OF THE 2015 ERNEST J. GAINES AWARD FOR LITERARY EXCELLENCE
LONGLISTED FOR THE 2016 ANDREW CARNEGIE MEDAL FOR EXCELLENCE IN FICTION
From the PEN/Faulkner finalist and critically acclaimed author of Hold It ’Til It Hurts comes a dark and socially provocative Southern-fried comedy about four UC Berkeley students who stage a dramatic protest during a Civil War reenactment—a fierce, funny, tragic work from a bold new writer.
Welcome to Braggsville. The City that Love Built in the Heart of Georgia. Population 712
Born and raised in the heart of old Dixie, D’aron Davenport finds himself in unfamiliar territory his freshman year at UC Berkeley. Two thousand miles and a world away from his childhood, he is a small-town fish floundering in the depths of a large, hyper-liberal pond. Caught between the prosaic values of his rural hometown and the intellectualized multicultural cosmopolitanism of Berzerkeley, the nineteen-year-old white kid is uncertain about his place until one disastrous party brings him three idiosyncratic best friends: Louis, a “kung-fu comedian" from California; Candice, an earnest do-gooder claiming Native roots from Iowa; and Charlie, an introspective inner-city black teen from Chicago. They dub themselves the “4 Little Indians.”
But everything changes in the group’s alternative history class, when D’aron lets slip that his hometown hosts an annual Civil War reenactment, recently rebranded “Patriot Days.” His announcement is met with righteous indignation, and inspires Candice to suggest a “performative intervention” to protest the reenactment. Armed with youthful self-importance, makeshift slave costumes, righteous zeal, and their own misguided ideas about the South, the 4 Little Indians descend on Braggsville. Their journey through backwoods churches, backroom politics, Waffle Houses, and drunken family barbecues is uproarious to start, but will have devastating consequences.
With the keen wit of Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk and the deft argot of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, T. Geronimo Johnson has written an astonishing, razor-sharp satire. Using a panoply of styles and tones, from tragicomic to Southern Gothic, he skewers issues of class, race, intellectual and political chauvinism, Obamaism, social media, and much more.
A literary coming-of-age novel for a new generation, written with tremendous social insight and a unique, generous heart, Welcome to Braggsville reminds us of the promise and perils of youthful exuberance, while painting an indelible portrait of contemporary America.
|Product dimensions:||6.20(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.40(d)|
About the Author
Born and raised in New Orleans, T. Geronimo Johnson is the bestselling author of Welcome to Braggsville and Hold It ’Til It Hurts, a finalist for the 2013 PEN/Faulkner Award for fiction. He received his M.F.A. from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and his M.A. in language, literacy, and culture from UC Berkeley. He has taught writing and held fellowships—including a Stegner Fellowship and an Iowa Arts Fellowship—at Arizona State University, Iowa, Berkeley, Western Michigan University, and Stanford. He lives in Berkeley, California.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4.5 stars Although not deliberate, my choices in reading material recently have included a number of books dealing with race relations, particularly those between blacks and whites in the United States. T. Geronimo Johnson's Welcome to Braggsville reminded me quite a bit of Dwayne Alexander Smith's Forty Acres, another novel in which the history of slavery in the United States played a defining role. However, where Forty Acres approached the issue through role reversal, with black men creating a plantation of white slaves, Johnson's tactic is satire, in which a quartet of liberal-minded Berkeley students try to expose the ridiculousness of Southern Civil War reenactments by staging their own lynching at one such reenactment in the fictional town of Braggsville, Georgia. Not surprisingly, this effort at "performative intervention" proves disastrous, although not in the way the reader expects. The plot twist, which occurs in the first third of the book, is a stroke of genius. Once Johnson takes his train off the rails, the reader has no choice but to hang on and wait to see where he's going. His destination is thought-provoking and worth the ride. Had he omitted the last chapter, Welcome to Braggsville would have earned 5 stars. Unfortunately, three pages before the end of the book, Johnson yanks us away from our visceral connection with his "4 Little Indians" to engage in a two-page-long diatribe about how criminal justice, education, and employment statistics demonstrate blacks' continued status as second-class citizens. While those statistics are disturbing, they are open to other interpretations than institutional bigotry; indeed, Southern Civil War reenactments are not necessarily celebrations of slavery, a fact to which I can attest as a native Southerner and a resident of Kennesaw, Georgia, the site of a major reenactment. If Johnson truly believed that he needed to abandon satire to make his point, his better choice would have been to include these numbers in an appendix. The change in tone is simply too jarring, reveals Johnson's insecurity in both the strength of his story-telling and the intelligence of his readers, and diminishes his otherwise spectacular achievement. Despite this misstep, I expect Welcome to Braggsville to be one of the best reads of 2015, and I highly recommend it. I received a free copy of Welcome to Braggsville through the Goodreads First Reads program in exchange for an honest review.
This is that rare book that seems to hold the meaning of everything within its pages, that evokes awe and wonder upon completion. It absolutely shook me to the core. I laughed, I cried, and I won’t be forgetting this story (or this writer) anytime soon. If you’re a fan of distinct voices like Jennifer Egan, Gary Shteyngart, Karen Russell, Junot Diaz, or Colson Whitehead, then buy this book. It also has the sort of structural freedom and smart, funny, soulful insight that defined the work of one of my very favorite writers – Kurt Vonnegut.