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Welcome to Braggsville

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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.

354 pages, Hardcover

First published February 17, 2015

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About the author

T. Geronimo Johnson

6 books145 followers
Born and raised in New Orleans, T. Geronimo Johnson received his MFA 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, the University of Iowa, UC Berkeley, Western Michigan University and Stanford. His first novel, Hold it ‘Til it Hurts, was a finalist for the 2013 PEN/Faulkner Award for fiction Johnson is currently a visiting professor at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. He lives in Berkeley, California.

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Profile Image for Will Byrnes.
1,310 reviews120k followers
October 13, 2022
WtB named to the Washington Post top ten list for 2015

…nothing was as it seemed
On learning that the southern member of their group hails from a place that stages an annual Civil War re-enactment, one with a heavy Confederate tilt, four UC Berkeley sophomores decide to engage in a bit of political theater and protest the event by staging a mock lynching. What could possibly go wrong?

A boy from the deep South who opts to pass on taking up shooting is likely to feel just a bit like an outsider in his small hometown.
…when young he had admired their sarcasm and sharp wit, his older female cousins—the misanthrope, the pyromaniac, and the exhibitionist—all obviously hated their lives, lives that would never recover the hope of their youth, lives now defined by their status as old maids, though barely thirty. They were stuck here, and the finality of that sentence pained him. It was impossible to have a conversation with one of them and not feel like he was addressing a ghost.
What’s in a name? D’Aron Davenport has them by the bushel. Not just the ones he was tagged with at birth, but the stream of names that attached to him through his brief life. Some of them celebrate achievement, some mark him as an outcast, some poke fun, and some offer respect. Some tell his history, and some hold a promise for the future. Many of these names will find their way back to D’Aron over the course of the story as he struggles to define himself in places where others seem intent on doing that for him. He would like to make a name for himself someplace other than Braggsville, Georgia. On graduating from high school, he gets as far away as he can.

T. Geronimo Johnson

There are some pretty funny scenes in Welcome to Braggsville. A symbol of the cluelessness of the place he desperately wants to leave behind, a classmate, after D’Aron delivers his valedictory, misunderstanding a Latin phrase from D’Aron’s speech, congratulates him on his engagement. In his second semester at UC Berkeley, or Berzerkeley, (Johnson teaches there, and knows of what he writes) as it is actually known, he attends a dot party (wear a dot where you want to be touched). Apparently the location he selects for his dot is deemed politically incorrect and he is shown the door by self-righteous alphas. He is not alone in his choice of dot location. The insight-free hosts have made three other attendees feel as welcome as Larry Kroger and Kent Dorfman at Omega Theta Pi, and a bond is forged. They call themselves “The 4 Little Indians.”

Charlie, a black from Chicago, has the physique of an athlete. Candice is a naïve, over-confident Iowa blonde, who professes Native American heritage. I couldn’t help picturing young Gwyneth Paltrow. Louis Chang, a Californian who exudes comedy and thinks of himself as a “kung fu comedian” will make you laugh. What kind of southern white boy can D’Aron be that he feels so drawn to the scary Gully, (the wrong side of the tracks at home) and did not see all the darkness around him in the safe side of town? How is it that D’Aron finds that he feels quite comfortable with black people, while feeling more and more alienated from his lighter complexioned peers in B-ville? At Berkeley, he has a stunningly beautiful bonding experience with a black counselor. Where does he fit in? Charlie has issues of a different sort that keep him from feeling too close to his peers as well.

A class called “American History X, Y, and Z: Alternative Perspectives” sparks the crew to action. After a failed attempt at making a political statement of outrage about the University’s treatment of Ishi, presumably the last wild Indian in America, at a Six Flags Amusement Park, a hilarious failure, the group settles on their larger, and more provocative project.

There is a lot more going on here than comedy. An outsider theme applies not only to these four as students at Berzerkely, but for them in other venues as well. Louis is not exactly heading in a career direction his family would sanction. Charlie is not exactly what he appears. And Candice may not exactly be in a comfort zone with her family either.
she’d once admitted that her family wasn’t close; that her father expressed a greater affinity for moths and fruit liqueurs and her mother a keen interest in civil rights. She dubbed them emotionally abusive.
Johnson extends the outsider notion to larger structures as well. D’Aron may be a fish out of water in Braggsville, but what of the residents of the Gully? An entire community that is not allowed much opportunity to get near the water, let alone jump in. You can guess the complexion involved.

Johnson has a bit of fun with how the media and political opportunists take advantage of the uproar in Braggsville. You will recognize the types of players involved, and appreciate the deft hand used in painting them in their true colors.

He also takes liberties with form. The introduction of D’Aron and all his names is inspired. He also includes a sort-of term paper as it might have been written by the four in which barbecue stands in for racism, (ok, the author may or may not have intended this, sometimes barbecue is just barbecue, but I think it works as a racism metaphor even if it was not intended) an extended footnote that comprises Louis’s take on things, and other literary liberties as well. There is a freedom in this approach that is surprising in a good way and invigorating, reminding one of the creativity shown in A Visit from the Goon Squad.

Johnson is focusing his literary microscope on preconceptions, left and right, and then looking past the visual to what lies beneath. The political correctness of liberal mecca UC Berkeley comes in for some sharp edges. As does the yahoo-ism of back-water Georgia. What Johnson brings to this impressive novel is his ability to look past that outer layer of knee-jerk satire. What one sees here is not uni-colored. There is also sensitivity to what compromises good people must make to survive in an alien environment, and there is nuance, even to the awfulness.

In a large way this is a coming of age story for the group of friends, D’Aron most of all, and as such it works quite well, as D’Aron sees so much more than he had known was right in front of him. He gets to see how the real world operates and it changes him.

Johnson uses some interludes to offer a bit of history on slavery in Georgia. I was surprised at some of this. I expect you will be as well. An observation of race is one of the many strong seams in this marbled look at America today. Parenting, whether by parents or other adults figures large as well. Even concepts like what constitutes tragedy are given a look.

There are astute observations on a host of things. Here are a couple of samples:
Every organization, every single one, Daron worries himself, orchestrates a silent competition with the church; they want not employees but practitioners, apostles, acolytes—not workers, but worshippers. Between this observation and his reflections on school, he concludes that everyone advertises for the mind but expects you to bring the soul.
Did his parents also look at each other with resentment born of intimacy; did they want more than anything else to reach out to each other, to close cold space; did they say things to hurt each other first intentionally and then again, accidentally, even without meaning to, in the midst of apologizing? Did they inventory their intimacies? How did you look at someone and care so much for them and hate them at the same time, be so angry that you didn’t even trust yourself to have a valid emotion, so angry it couldn’t be real?
Links are drawn between the treatment of Native Americans and interned Japanese during World War II, between lynching of the traditional sort and a later day electronic equivalent, between anchors that ground one and those that keep you from moving, between being in one’s social bubble, and being in the world.

Welcome to Braggsville is a stunning achievement. I was reminded not only of last year’s wonderful Billy Lynn’s Long Half-Time Walk for its brilliant and sensitive social observation, but also of Skippy Dies, one of my all-time favorite books, for its humor and warmth. It applies a sharp, satiric scalpel to diverse targets, but also peels back surfaces to reveal complication and humanity. D’Aron is a wonderfully realized lead, thoughtful, decent, engaging, struggling to find his place in various hostile universes. Eager to do right. This is a book that has at its core a racial tension, but there is so much more going on here. Head on over to Braggsville, pull up a chair, load a plate up with some barbecue, pop a cold one, and set a spell. Maybe talk to someone who is nothing at all like you. You will find your visit very filling indeed.

Review first Posted – 10/3/14

Publication Date – 2/17/14

This review has been cross-posted on CootsReviews

=============================EXTRA STUFF

September 17, 2015 - Braggsville is named to the longlist for the National Book Award
September 21, 2015 - Braggsville is named to the Carnegie Awards long list

Links to the author’s personal, Twitter and FB pages

While the above links were live at the time I posted this, they are not all that current. I would expect that as publication date approaches Johnson will do some updating.

Johnson wrote a wonderful Behind the Book essay for Braggsville. It is definitely worth checking out.

An interesting interview with the author on the site of the publisher of his first book, Coffee House Press

Another fascinating interview, from a couple of years ago, on ZingMagazine.com

And yet another interview, this one at Late Night Library

For a jaw-dropping review, check out Ron Charles's in the Washington Post

For another, try David Ulin's review in the LA Times

NPR chimes in

Cynthia Wu is an associate Prof at the University of Buffalo Transnational Studies Department. In her review, WELCOME, NOW KEEP OUT, she offers unique insight into B'ville. Check it out.
Profile Image for karen.
3,988 reviews170k followers
September 3, 2018
But we were being ironic when we posted those bumper stickers, protested Candice. Everyone knows we were joking.

Everyone who is our age, probably white, and a college student at a hella liberal school. Don't you get it? This never made any fucking sense to anyone but us, and there aren't as many of us as we fucking thought.

i wanted to love this book more than i did, and it's one of those situations where the parts i liked i really really liked, but the narrative gets a little muddy in places, both in its storyline when it strays from its surefooted plot into less-compelling tangents and also in its voice, where there's a little authorial tricksiness at play that distances the reader and winds up being more frustrating than clever.

there's a good story in here, but it gets in its own way by trying to take on too much.

the premise is great - it involves a group of college students in that phase of their lives where they have it all figured out - they know exactly how the world works and they're not afraid to stridently vocalize the social ills they observe and they have that youthful energy and drive to do something about it. but they're also too young to have any real perspective or to think through the consequences of their actions. it's what makes college kids so adorable - all fired up from cutting their teeth on critical theory, thinking that parroting back jargon makes them smarter than their folks, too dumb to know it doesn't.

the kids in this case are further burdened by being students at the hyper self-consciously liberal berkeley. we have d'aron; a white kid from smalltown georgia where being called "gay" is both a terrible insult and a hilarious joke, louis; a chinese boy whose goal is to become a stand-up comedian and whose racial material is actually frequently hilarious, charlie; a black boy with a prep school background and an athlete's physique, and candice; midwestern white girl claiming fractional native american blood and on a crusade to fix the world through her passionate causes.

they band together in a tight clique after a misunderstanding at a party stirs up their (or at least the white kids') insecurities and fears about being perceived as racially insensitive. they call themselves "the 4 little indians," and unite to support candice's public displays of protest and righting-of-wrongs, and there's all sorts of love-polygons running through their group.

when candice learns that d'aron's hometown sponsors an annual civil war reenactment, they hatch a plan to attend and shock the participants with a "performative intervention" which they will film as d'aron's american history project.

but it goes very, very wrong.

the novel is a satire, and for the most part, it works very well. it captures perfectly the dangerous confidence of crusading liberal arts students who can't see beyond their own short-sighted and shiny-new ideologies - pointing fingers without perspective or context, assigning blame and stereotyping people whose sense of tradition might not carry the racial weight they assume. and the delicious irony of how the consequences of their actions cause them to be labelled as the very thing they thought they were unmasking.

it's funny and clever and also very sad. and scary.

the funniest parts, to me, involve the college experience at its most basic. where d'aron soaks in information like a sponge and uses it to become a smug little judge of the woefully less-educated:

D'aron cringed when she said tragedy. Everybody knows better. The first fact they learned in his course on Greek theater (or in any introductory lit theory class) was that a tragedy arose when one faced two competing claims of equal magnitude. Hence, when Antigone is faced with either abandoning her brother Polynices's rotting corpse to cook the air in accordance with Creon's dictates or burying her sibling in accordance with family duty, she faces tragedy. When a drunken idiot falls asleep at the wheel or knob or whatever it is and the subway crashes, that is not tragedy. When the term was first explained, D'aron appreciated the certainty of the definition and the commitment to exactitude the professor's lecture symbolized, making possible the surety that had so long eluded him. The scales had fallen from his back, as had the fin. From that day forward, whenever he heard the word tragedy, he could tell a lot about a person.

also hilarious is d'aron's need to come across as tolerant and accepting, the self-satisfied weight he assigns to having surrounded himself with this sort of checklist of racially and gender-diverse pals, and his genuine concern when a secret comes out:

which, of course, is just as superficial as the bigots d'aron despises.

but the BEST is d'aron's father's reaction to his syllabus.

...after reviewing their son's record of completed courses, and hearing a brief summary of each, they were flabbergasted. Math and science, yes, but [Novel, Nov-ooo, Nove-o, Noo-voo?] Russian Cinema, The People's History, Introduction to Ethnic Studies: The Native Today? It was as if these classes existed only to prove that they could. His father rose from the kitchen table, bearing his weight with his knuckles, leaning over D'aron. These are like gonzo porn.

and as he continues to study the course listing:

This class will prepare students to recognize and become knowledgeable of people's biases based on race, ethnicity, culture, political ideology, sexual orientation, age, religion, social and economic status, and disability. Students will also learn to recognize how dominant culture influences marginalized groups.

he becomes incensed that he has been tricked into having to…pay for my son D'aron Little May Davenport to take a class to tell him to act right and treat people goddamned fairly. It's a damned insult to your mother and me.

which, of course, d'aron translates into "parents just don't understand," but is the most sensible thing said in the book.

when the book is focused on the kids, their performance and its aftermath, it shines. again, the parts that are good are very very good. the problem is that the story is weighed down by all this other stuff that burdens the narrative with unnecessary clutter, leaving the reader wishing it had been edited with a heavier hand so the intelligent satire had been less clouded.

but definitely worth reading.

also, i heart louis.

come to my blog!
Profile Image for Ron Charles.
1,050 reviews48.7k followers
April 1, 2015
The most dazzling, most unsettling, most oh-my-God-listen-up novel you’ll read this year is called “Welcome to Braggsville.” The 44-year-old author, T. Geronimo Johnson, plays cultural criticism like it’s acid jazz. His shockingly funny story pricks every nerve of the American body politic. Arriving smack dab in the middle of Black History Month — our shortest month, naturally — “Braggsville” lashes self-satisfied liberals in the academy and self-deluded Confederates in the attic. As we feign surprise at police brutality and our Twitter outrage flits from Ferguson to Staten Island to Cleveland, this is just the discomfiting book we need.

The story opens with Johnson’s scat-singing introduction to a polite white teen from Georgia named D’aron Little May Davenport. His whole life, D’aron has been mocked and bullied for his academic skill — a sure sign of wimpiness and questionable sexual orientation in a community that “produced more Special Forces soldiers per capita than any other town in America.” Desperate to get out of Braggsville, D’aron composes a series of college application essays — reproduced here in all their pimply teenage earnestness — that would excite any admissions officer’s savior complex.

The class of academic satires has been overenrolled for a while now, but make room for this brilliant send-up of the postmodern, hypersensitive, non-essentializing, gender-neutral world of the University of California at Berkeley. (Johnson must have gorged on its absurdities when he earned a master’s degree there.) In this strange place, “where the elsewhere unimaginable was mere mundanity,” D’aron arrives like some Southern-fried Candide, dazzled by the foreign nomenclature, the “designer-sneaker Zapatistas” and the rainbow of races.

Of course, satirizing this politically correct world is tantamount to euthanizing fish in a cruelty-free barrel, but Johnson is better at mocking academia than anybody since David Lodge, and his narration has such athleticism that you feel energized just running alongside him — or even several strides behind. His sentences are long and jaggy, sparked with stray cultural references. He dips unpredictably into other characters’ voices, volleying their jokes and pet phrases, nesting ironies within ironies. He feints between first and second person, he moonwalks into history, he spins from comedy to tragedy to editorial in a single paragraph. In short, Johnson does things you don’t think are advisable, which makes his success all the more awesome.

But “Welcome to Braggsville” isn’t all linguistic acrobatics at the expense of its characters. Johnson writes about D’aron with real heart. He cradles this young man’s innocence and sympathizes with his desperation to fit in — which D’aron finally does during the second semester, when he meets a group of oddballs who call themselves “the 4 Little Indians” (Ironical reclamation of racist tropes is so empowering!) There’s Louis, a Malaysian American from the Bay Area, who wants to be “the next Lenny Bruce Lee, kung fu comedian”; Charlie, an African American from Chicago who looks like he’s on the football team; and Candice, who claims she’s part Native American and can out-outrage even the most self-righteous posers. (Don’t discount Johnson’s Apache middle name. To D’aron, so long denied any interesting friends, these three are a gift. He “desperately wanted to hug them all, and instead would settle for the huddles between bursts of Frisbee football.”

The whole novel turns on a stray comment in a class called “American History, X, Y, and Z: Alternative Perspectives”: D’aron mentions that his home town stages a Civil War reenactment every year during its Pride Week Patriot Days Festival.

The class is shocked. “They’d heard tell of Civil War reenactments,” Johnson writes, “but they were still occurring? The War Between the States was another time and another country. As was the South. Are barbers still surgeons? Is there still sharecropping? What about indoor plumbing? Like an old Looney Tunes skit, Tex Avery tag ensued. Charlie gawked at Louis, who gawped at Candice, who generously suggested it as a capstone project to the professor, who Googled the event and announced that it coincided with spring break. Serendipity has spoken.”

“In the wink of a cat’s eye,” a clever, incredibly offensive, potentially disastrous plan is born: D’aron and his three friends will travel back to his hometown and stage a “performative intervention”: a mock lynching. “You can force States’ Rights to take a look in the mirror,” the professor crows, “and they will not like what they see.”

From that bizarre premise hangs a story that will shock and disturb you. The trip to Braggsville — population 712, once a contender for the capital of Georgia — offers Johnson a chance to descend into the fetid pool of Southern pride that still romanticizes the antebellum era. D’aron’s parents and neighbors are perfectly pleasant people who just happen to have black lawn jockeys in their yards and racist bumper stickers on their trucks. It’s all in fun — Don’t you get it? How could these nice people be racists? — Braggsville is, after all, “The City That Love Built.” Everybody knows that the black people who live way off on the other side of town in the Gully are happy there. And that enormous Confederate flag wrapped around the watchtower? Just a symbol of civic pride. Yes, the town’s Civil War “reenactments were reinstated back in the 1950s in response to mandated integration,” but that doesn’t mean those nostalgic battle skits have anything to do with slavery. The war was about states’ rights, don’t you know?

Johnson is a master at stripping away our persistent myths and exposing the subterfuge and displacement necessary to keep pretending that a culture built on kidnapping, rape and torture was the apotheosis of gentility and honor. But “Welcome to Braggsville” is not just a broadside at the South. It’s equally irritated with liberalism’s self-righteousness. The 4 Little Indians imagine that their moral superiority and clever theatricality will somehow shame and cleanse the townspeople who witness the faux lynching.

When that ill-conceived plan goes horribly wrong, the narrative begins to bend and fracture — a virtual reflection of America’s crafty efforts to disguise and obfuscate its history of racial violence. Flecked with surrealism, the novel loops back on the “performative intervention” and its aftermath from different perspectives, exploring the malleability of meaning and the deadly effects of a culture that ignores or misunderstands its own prejudices. (Amid the op-ed frenzy that explodes after the mock lynching goes viral, Berkeley responds with a colloquium called “The Body Linguistic: Syntax, Sexicons, and Civil Rights.”)

At times in this comic novel, I could hear strange echoes of another one about a well-meaning white kid striking out against the racist system of his day: Mark Twain’s “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.” It, too, concludes with a humiliating “performative intervention”: a mock slave escape. But that comparison is clouded with complications as muddy as the Mississippi. A more contemporary soulmate may be Booker Prize-winner Howard Jacobson, who works in the same disorientingly witty way to explore the persistence of anti-Semitism. You think you know where both men stand, but the ground around them is slick with irony and blood.

In light of new research from the Equal Justice Initiative about the prevalence of lynchings and the country’s demonic success at rendering them historically invisible, this extraordinary novel could not be more relevant. With young D’aron, Johnson forces us to consider our determined ignorance and naivete. Part of growing up in America, he knows, is learning how to negotiate that national amnesia.

Welcome to Braggsville. It’s about time.

This review first appeared in The Washington Post:
Profile Image for Sue.
1,272 reviews548 followers
October 11, 2015
Welcome to Braggsville is T. Geronimo Johnson's biting, loving, sparkling and spot-on satire of this US of A and especially matters of race, education, politics, regionalism and so many other "isms" (that we see before us on the news daily--a hyper reality now that has blossomed further since he wrote this book).

In the basic tale, D'aron Davenport (who will henceforth have to justify, explain and possibly change or defend the spelling of his name) makes the decision to apply to UCBerkeley in order to get away from the small town existence of his home town in Georgia. It takes time, but eventually D'aron makes friends in Louis, the wanna-be comedian, Candice from Iowa with ultra do-good intentions, and Charlie, a thoughtful, and younger, kid from Chicago. They become the "4 Little Indians."

And then there is an Alternative History class. Yes this is Berkeley. And D'aron happens to mention the Civil War reenactment held annually in his hometown. The class is aghast, yes aghast! And plans are made. Performance art, no "performance intervention" is the term. Berkeley will go to Braggsville in the persons of the 4 Little Indians. And the rest is, as they say, the rest of the story. And oh what a story.

Satire done well is amazing; it takes no prisoners. I'm reminded of reading Jonathan Swift's A Modest Proposal many years ago, while in college. The reader is forced to confront many things (or ignore reality). Here the reader may see themselves in the students, the parents, the townspeople of Braggsville, the news media from out of town. The "guilty," the "innocent," (if indeed such titles possibly apply), the professors at Berkeley, whomever. Perhaps a little of everyone.

Johnson uses a variety of writing styles. The mood, changing tempos, writing style and language all seem to feed the story for me. And masterful use of satire blasts away in all directions. (With little trickles of insight being shown in some characters)

I do recommend this book highly but be aware it is not easy or comfortable. Satire is intended to arouse emotion AND thought.
Profile Image for Brian.
707 reviews354 followers
May 24, 2019
“How strange and wonderful, he thought, it was to have friends.”

And the title of this review is a prime example that even a stinker of a book can have a good line written in it.
“Welcome to Braggsville”….if you read this review you can skip the book.
First off, this novel is all over the place stylistically. All. Over. In fact, at times the text is incomprehensible, literally. A question for any author, if your reader can’t understand you, are you just writing for your own ego? You are clearly not writing to communicate.
This book seems to play a bit in every camp, and thus feels scattered in its point (if there is one). Is the novel a satire of the American left (at moments). A satire of the American South (a lot). A satire of the academic world (occasionally). I love the idea of skewering everyone, but I feel this book wants you to think it is evenhanded, while in reality it is not.

Ironically, I think this book works best as a satire of itself.

The plot is hackneyed, stereotypical, and rings completely false. It also contains a pretentious and stupid “thesis paper” that the protagonist writes (or imagines he writes) in the text. Most frustrating is that the 14 pages of this “thesis” are not counted in this edition’s 355 page count. Not cool publisher, not cool. I want those 14 pages back.
The last quarter of “Welcome to Braggsville” is just awful. The usual boogeymen of the American Left appear, and it just gets worse from there.
One of the truest lines in the book is “It was precisely the perverse type of academic thinking that caused the mess in the first place.” This novel reeks of academia; in fact, it will have no life outside if it. The reason is that a story, simply told, can be powerful. This text missed that mark by a mile!
Profile Image for Margitte.
1,177 reviews540 followers
April 5, 2017
From the blurb:
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...

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.

nothing was as it seemed - and the four little Indians had a few hard lessons waiting for them when ideas and reality collide down on planet Earth...particularly in Braggsville.

Honestly, I am not in the mood to write an elaborate review on this book, although it deserves more readers and more discussions. There are excellent reviews elsewhere on Goodreads, as well as on the internet and there are too many issues in the book for me to cover in a review.

The book is a profound criticism, yet insightful diameter of the modern American society in its broader sense, but applicable to many modern societies across the world where immigrants changed the racial profile of the landscape. It reflects the younger generation's approach to their current political and social mileu as interpreted by their own histories and cultures. I really like the idea of this book and the information it provided was really interesting.

It was a struggle to get through large parts of the book, due to its structure and often language preferences, not that it has a negative impact on the book at all. For an outsider it is just difficult to grasp the meaning of some linguistic concepts embedded in regional 'talk' and gender idioms, for instance. Fortunately a list of word explanations is provided in the back of the book, which had me smiling, because it is really clogged up with satire, but I only discovered it after finishing the tale.

The author calls his glossary of the language 'Sexicon'(The Glossary for the Rest of Us).
The meaning of 'Braggsville' is pointed to 'The US of A' and when I click on the latter, it is back-referenced to Braggsville. When the implication of it hit me, I burst out laughing!

It took me too long to get through the book. The story line was wonderful, the historical information insightful and the social comment brilliant. I can really recommend this book to everyone who could face sexual references as part of the mindset. If you do not like it, then rather leave it. It is, however, part of the psyche of the characters and serves as an important element in defining the characters. The author approached the events with a satirical brush, but with a definite darker color nuance settling down on the walls of our conscious. However, it is done with so much warmth, compassion and really a deep understanding of the building blocks behind the history and cultural differences of the different regions and groups.

I always love books in which our bonkers society is highlighted from the pavilion. It is fascinating to recognize ourselves mirrored in the players down on the field getting the job done. We observe them from a distance with all the spotlights blazing on the action. The critics on the stands or even populating the coaches as potatoes, are almost always better candidates for the game than the actual players on the field, judging from their reactions, but they are hardly willing, or able, to do the job themselves. Besides, we never like to see ourselves in action. In fact, we do not want to acknowledge ourselves in those players either. And THAT makes this book a very interesting read indeed.

I was annoyed with the struggle to understand everything, which brought the rating down to three, but the book deserves a higher rating, and for American readers it might be a lot easier, so it goes up to four stars. I sincerely think it should be read by a broader audience. Just get passed the beginning few paragraphs and you're okay! :-)

I really liked it though! I might even read it it again.

A great review in public books can be read here:

Thanks to Howard who provided the link below, a discussion with the author about the book can be found here

Will Byrne's outstanding review can be read here

Profile Image for Tom Mathews.
688 reviews
September 30, 2015
Although born and raised in New Orleans there is more Ferlinghetti than Faulkner in T. Geronimo Johnson's satirical novel, Welcome to Braggsville. Warning, this is not a book for readers who are used to being spoon-fed content and answers. There is plenty of content to be had but you will need to find the answers on your own.

The pace and style of the story changes almost by the minute, frenetic as a beat poet one page, measured and reflective the next. Much of it is reminiscent of all-night conversations I had in college, wandering and disjointed in places but oh-so relevant and self-assured. But that stands to reason, seeing as the main characters are students at UC Berkeley. You don’t get any more relevant and self-assured than a Cal student. Trust me on this.

Here’s the story: Four Cal students from various walks of life decide that, for a history class project, they will stage a reenactment. These self-titled ‘four little Indians’ would go to Braggsville, Georgia, a town that annually hosts a Civil War reenactment, and stage their own reenactment of a lynching. Needless to say, things don’t go as expected and their plans go awry faster than you can say ‘media shitstorm’.

To me, this is less a story than a set-up for a discussion in my daughter’s multi-cultural psychology class. Every action by every participant is questioned. Did you think this was a good idea? Do you think it was funny? Are you trying to make us look bad? More than anything, the book is a mirror that reflects the absurdity in all of us. Left-leaning liberal college students fare no better than the white Braggsville residents or the black residents in The Gully.

There is more that I want to say about this book but I think it will best be offered in the context of a discussion. Every reader will form his or her own conclusions and I look forward to finding out if mine sound as whacky to others as they do to me.

FYI: On a 5-point scale I assign stars based on my assessment of what the book needs in the way of improvements:
• 5 Stars – Nothing at all. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
• 4 Stars – It could stand for a few tweaks here and there but it’s pretty good as it is.
• 3 Stars – A solid C grade. Some serious rewriting would be needed in order for this book to be considered great or memorable.
• 2 Stars – This book needs a lot of work. A good start would be to change the plot, the character development, the writing style and the ending.
• 1 Star - The only thing that would improve this book is a good bonfire.
Profile Image for Diane Barnes.
1,301 reviews450 followers
October 12, 2015
Well. What to say about this book? Firstly, depending on the chapter I was reading, the rating fluctuated wildly between 2 and 5 stars. Some of it was brilliant, some of it incomprehensible to me. I soldiered on bravely, hoping that, like Faulkner, it would come together at the end. And for the most part, it did. One of the things that made this book a little difficult to read is that the author employs a lot of different writing styles from chapter to chapter, so I was constantly having to adjust my reading to fit. That's not necessarily a bad thing, as I think I understand what he was trying to do, Also, no quotation marks, so conversations and private thoughts had to be sifted, and it was difficult to know who was talking when. It's a book that, while I was reading I was fully invested, but when away, felt I needed the downtime.

Having explained all that, I loved the way Johnson skewered everyone; black, white, Asian; FBI, local sheriffs, college professors, college students, southern good ole boys, mothers, fathers, etc, you name it , he took a shot at it. And let's not forget well-meaning liberals!

Some favorite lines:
"To be bullied into suicide. I think of it now as lynching from a distance."
"College makes you smart. It doesn't make other people stupid."
"The re-enactment is not a southern creation. We may do it better than most, but it is not a southern creation."
"As much as he loved Charlie, it would be easier if there were no black people at all. If only there could only be people."

I read just before finishing this book that it was long-listed for the 2015 National Book Award. I can see that. It's a great book. And the fact that it was a difficult read is balanced by my reason for giving it 4 stars: Every page gave me something to think about that changed the way I view my world.
Profile Image for Monica.
621 reviews631 followers
July 29, 2018
Reminicent of Invisible Man, D'Aron Davenport a white, Southern, liberal minded young man is on a voyage of discovery about himself, his friends, his school and his hometown. Packed with tremendous insight and searing commentary as well as generous amounts of humor, I thought this was brilliant! More thoughts to follow...

5 Stars

Listened to this on Audible. MacCleod Andrews was a fantastic narrator. My understanding is that the book is a complicated read (lack of punctuation, hard to figure out who is speaking etc). Audio may be the way to go with this one.
Profile Image for Ester.
11 reviews7 followers
June 30, 2017
I am so disappointed by how much I disliked this book because of how much I was looking forward to reading it. The first 30 or so pages are smart and funny, but the book becomes too clever and too obtuse for its own good. By the time I finished it, I was absolutely furious at what a miserable experience reading this book was.

Although the main characters are wooden and undeveloped, and the major plot twist is melodramatic, both of those narrative choices are effective in a satirical novel where the characters are naive college students with a simplistic view of social, racial, and economic justice. Where the book lost me is in the myriad of difficult to follow narrative styles (and there are many) and in the incessant digressions. The last 100 pages were torturous to get through, culminating in a 15 page insert of a mock-academic paper on the sociology of barbecue. Early on in the book, I may have found this an amusing send up of academia, but by this point, my good will for the premise had run out. To the extent this book had thoughtful, profound things to say, and I believe it did, they were all lost for me due to the gimmicky and frustrating nature of the writing.
135 reviews8 followers
February 15, 2015
Why is it that when some writers create a novel, which they hope to be considered a 'literary' novel, they make them so difficult to read? In the mind of some authors the aim seems to be anything but communication, however valid the theme might be.

The first to go out the window is punctuation. Who needs those grammatical rules that have evolved over time to make the reading of whatever piece of writing intelligible to the reader. Johnson is obviously in a state of war against quotation marks as not a single one appears in his 350 page opus. Apart from anything else this means that often the reader is not entirely sure of who is saying what (or at least this reader was).

Next is to include such localised references that not even all the people who live in these parochial societies would know what was being said. I can see the value of such localisms but if you put in too many the reader just ends up getting lost. Instead of putting in the effort to read a book to (by the end) arrive at a greater understanding when too much is unknown and, unless accompanied with a huge amount of time on the computer to get all the references, unknowable the only reward is frustration. A 'glossary' is included at the end but this is merely there for Johnson to show that he is so clever, the 'glossary' being as impenetrable as the text. I assume this is his attempt at a 'literary' joke.

And just to alienate the reader even more every so often he shoots off on pages of 'stream of consciousness'. That's never been my thing and when it's added to all the other efforts to distance the reader from the story it starts to become annoying.

I really struggled with this book, or it might be more accurate to say I struggled to stay reading the book to the end. There were many times when I was so annoyed by Johnson's arrogance (I'm an clever writer, you're a mere pleb if you don't understand) that I thought to just give up. Once I had reached the end I wondered why I hadn't acted on those impulses, preferably before getting to much into double figures on the pages.

Looking back on the novel I thought that this was more like a first draft, where the writer lets his imagination run wild and doesn't let the task of editing interfere with the creative process. This might have been how Johnson started this project but then when he looked at the result thought 'to hell with the editing, this looks like a literary novel to me', (but he wouldn't have thought that with punctuation) and left it as it was. The sort of thing you're supposed to do NaNoWriMo.

In a way it's a shame as the story itself has a valid comment to make about racism and liberalism in US society. At times, through the murk of the writing style, a rye and pertinent comment shines out. But this is swamped by the obfuscation. And I didn't warm at all to the principal character, Daron, D'aron, Da'ron (in his dislike of grammar the apostrophe moves to wherever you like).

If I wrote a novel and a reviewer concentrated on the presentation and not the content I would have thought I had failed. I think Johnson has.

A Goodreads First Reads winner.
Profile Image for Jeff.
95 reviews1 follower
May 21, 2015
Dude, just tell the story. There was such a strong story to tell here, lost in a bunch of wannabe artsy mumbo jumbo. Just tell the story.
Profile Image for Taryn.
1,210 reviews189 followers
August 23, 2019
Welcome to Braggsville was such a challenging book for me, in both subject matter and style. Every time I thought I'd figured out who Johnson was satirizing—Confederate flag-waving Southerners, hyper-liberal yet clueless Berkeley professors, young and dangerously naïve narrator D'aron and his friends—I'd turn a page and he'd expose yet another group's flaws and foibles. If everyone is a “bad guy”—or at least complicit in some way—who are the good guys in this story? I wondered.

The answer I finally settled upon: there aren't any. And that's why I think this book is one of the most painfully honest about race relations in America that I've ever encountered.

D'aron Davenport, a white kid from Braggsville, Georgia, population 712, escapes the rigid confines of his hometown for the vibrant campus of UC Berkeley. His two very different worlds collide with a bang when he and three friends decide to stage a “performative intervention” at Braggsville's annual Civil War reenactment. The idealistic but misguided co-eds think they'll be confronting racism and forcing the town's residents to reconsider an outdated ritual, but their stunt goes horribly wrong.

The rest of the book consists of D'aron and his friends struggling to make sense of what happened and dealing with their own culpability. Their inner reflections and conversations with others make for some pretty uncomfortable reading—the irony is so thickly layered, it's sometimes hard to know who, if anyone, can be taken seriously. The style Johnson has chosen doesn't help clarify things, either. He flits at will from one character's perspective to another, switches from first to second person and back again like water sloshing in the bottom of a boat. I could tell I was missing so many tiny details and passing references; all I could do was keep my feet planted and hope some of it would soak up into my socks and maybe someday make it to my brain.

It's a hell of a challenge, but Welcome to Braggsville is all the more important for it. I'm glad I stretched myself and didn't give up. Now, though, I think I've earned a light and fluffy read or ten.

More book recommendations by me at www.readingwithhippos.com
Profile Image for Matt.
375 reviews19 followers
March 13, 2015
“It just didn’t work for me” is a polite euphemism I employee often to describe books I am acutely ambivalent about. Upon finishing Welcome to Braggsville however, that is the most apt expression for my feelings: despite T. Geronimo Johnson creating a smart, complicated, informed, trenchant, at times scorching, novel about race and identity, Welcome to Braggsville just didn’t work for me.

The problems arise, for me, from its nebulous narrative voice. While mostly third person, Johnson regularly uses (some might say “indulges in”) asides, digressions and monologues where it’s unclear which of the characters’ (if any) thoughts are which. Internal dialogues ping-pong, veer off and spin out into verbal fretwork, filigree and vamping.

After the first act, most of the action in Braggsville is internal and it wasn’t always clear whose thoughts were being portrayed. Characters go places and do things, but they don’t service the plot. These actions and interactions, ostensibly, inform and act upon the characters’ inner workings and/or worldview. But since the payoff is based on the changes (or lack thereof) in the characters, being unable to follow their thoughts through any recognizable progression (or regression) from “A” to “B” to “K” to “Z” led to what felt like a lot of narrative wheel-spinning and a muddy resolution.

I would not not recommend Welcome to Braggsville to anybody interested in a story that deals with thorny issues in a complicated, thoughtful, highly entertaining—at times shocking—way. The monologue Johnson concludes with is pure fire, making me want to jump up for a standing ovation then take to the streets. I totally and fully allow for my deficiency as a reader of Welcome to Braggsville. Whether it was the time, the mind space or something inherent to the book, Welcome to Braggsville just didn’t work for me.
Profile Image for David.
671 reviews337 followers
July 17, 2018
A small cohort of Berkeley students descend on Braggsville to punk a Civil War re-enactment with a “performative intervention” as they stage a lynching. It goes horribly awry forcing a new perspective on the motives and actions of everyone involved.

Hand-wringing millennials versed in academic theory whipped into liberal indignation go suddenly quiet when things leave the abstract and get suddenly real. The latent racism (you’re soaking in it) that surrounds us making it difficult to see. Our misguided motivations and how nothing is ever clearly black or white.

It was a book that deserved more attention than my post-Christmas, holiday jag could devote and I found myself dragging through some chapters - but it's still sticking with me despite that.
137 reviews12 followers
May 11, 2016
Half way through this book...maybe even a little further, I had this rated as a 5 star, OMG, what a great read. Then everything went off a cliff for me. Others have said it better than I could but this just tries way to hard to be "literary".
Profile Image for Jason Pettus.
Author 24 books1,324 followers
October 27, 2015
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [cclapcenter.com]. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted illegally.)

At first I had a hard time understanding why T. Geronimo Johnson's recent second novel, Welcome to Braggsville, ended up as a surprise nominee this year for the prestigious National Book Award; I mean, sure, it's written in this showy language deliberately designed to call attention to itself, which is like catnip to academic award committees, but at its heart it's not much more than a genteel coming-of-age novel, about a nice kid from a small Georgia town who ends up going to college in Berkeley and befriending a group of politically correct nerds, who all humorously decide one day to road-trip to our hero's hometown and stage a protest when they find out that the town still holds a Civil War re-enactment every year. Ah, but then I got about halfway through and realized why it's gotten so much attention -- because their humorous protest goes horribly wrong, sparking a riot among the thousands of proud Southerners in attendance, and in the melee one of the kids doing the protesting (who at the time was being fake-lynched from a tree using a stage harness from the college's theater department) ends up actually getting choked to death, never becoming clear in the chaos whether it was the fault of the rioters or whether the undergraduate protesters simply set up the harness wrong. This turns the entire thing into a Ferguson-style national flashpoint for an angry confrontation about race; and it's this bigger, more sweeping scope that has garnered the book so much attention.

Now, that said, if you don't like novels by MFA holders who want to remind you on every page that they hold an MFA, you need to steer far clear of this particular book -- Johnson has never met a sentence he couldn't double in length and complexity, turning essentially a 150-page Young Adult novel into a 375-page academic darling -- although if you do like such books, there's a lot to love in this one, a novel solidly grounded in concrete character examination but that holds several plot twists to keep things interesting. A book best treated as a genre novel, only the genre being "Books for NPR Fans," your enjoyment of the former will directly relate to your enjoyment of the latter, and this should be kept in mind when deciding whether to pick up a copy yourself.

Out of 10: 8.3, or 9.3 for NPR fans
Profile Image for Kirk Smith.
234 reviews79 followers
October 3, 2015
The best way to present uncomfortable subject matter is to keep a hint of humor continuously close at hand. Nothing truly laughable or these serious and sensitive issues would become farcical. That is the beautiful balance T. Geronimo Johnson maintains through the entire book. I thoroughly appreciated the Berkeley perspective that lends exaggeration to our nationwide issues of race, individual rights, gender, class distinctions, and freedom of expression. Not really eye opening, but definitely thought provoking.
Profile Image for Jessica Woodbury.
1,639 reviews2,155 followers
July 20, 2015
What is Welcome to Braggsville? Take a book like The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, except trade New Jersey and the Dominican Republic for rural Georgia and Berkeley. Change the Hispanic nerdy teenage boy to a white nerdy teenage boy. Add race and regionalism and politics and all sorts of ruminations on friendship, loyalty, and whether you can ever go home again or if you actually want to and VOILA: Welcome to Braggsville.

Oscar Wao is a book I know many people love, and I want all those people to read this book. The comparison is a compliment, and the vitality of Johnson's voice reminded me not only of Diaz but other powerful writers like Sherman Alexie and Kiese Laymon (whose Long Division you must read immediately). They capture something big about becoming a man in the US and Johnson more than deserves a spot among them.

I hesitate to discuss the plot much because every time you think you know what this book is about, it zags on you and you realize it's going in a totally different direction. The plot itself is quite simple, really, but I don't want to spoil it and I definitely don't want to spoil the way it takes you there as if you were blindfolded in the back of a speeding car.

It pains me that this book will not be out until February. That I have to sit here for the next 6 months wanting so much to put it in the hands of everyone I know but that I am not able to do it. Just take my word for it and pre-order it. Now.
Profile Image for Lark Benobi.
Author 1 book2,134 followers
January 30, 2019
The writing is uniformly arresting and the story is wrenching and perfect until the end of ch. 16. After this high dramatic point, the novel remains very, very good. Only, I felt Johnson let go of the reins a little. For my taste he let style and introspection take precedence over story. I wanted more events to happen than did in the last half of the novel. I wanted there to be more consequences for what happened in the first half. I wanted to have the marvelous clash of cultures and ideologies that Johnson set up in the first half to be fulfilled by an equally dramatic climax in the second. I wanted this book to be the Bonfire of the Vanities of the 21st century. Instead, the story retreated into something thoughtful, something nuanced, something personal; nothing like the big novel of social commentary I expected, and nothing like what I thought Johnson seemed to be gearing up for in the first half. It was a great read until the end, though--even if it wasn't exactly the read I wanted it to be.
Profile Image for Judith.
1,542 reviews76 followers
December 22, 2015
I noted this book on more than one list of "Best of 2015". Here is an extract from the first page: This is how the book actually begins.
"D'aron the Daring, Derring,Derring-do, stealing base, christened D'aron Little May Davenport, DD to Nana,initials smothered in Southern-fried kisses, dat Wigga D who like Jay Z aw-ite, who's down, Scots-Irish it is, D'aron because you're brave, says Dad, No, D'aron because your daddy's daddy was David and then there was mines who was named Aron, Doo-doo after cousin Quint blew thirty-six months in vo-tech on a straight-arm bid and they cruised out to Little Gorge lugging Green Grenades and read three years' worth of birthday cards, Little Mays when he hit those three homers in the Pee Wee playoff. . . . ."

etc. for much longer than I care to go on here. You get the picture.
Profile Image for Jamie.
1,203 reviews68 followers
January 2, 2015
I read this in 2014, but since it is a 2015 pub, I waited to review it so I can remember it in my "Books of 2015" lists. Because I thought it was fantastic.

Anything a person wants in a book is here. Great great language, humor, satire, ridiculous situations, a changing and often skewed perspective, to be kept guessing. What you think is going to be one thing consistently becomes something else. EVERYTHING works here - plot, language, characters, setting.

Not since Cloud Atlas have I read a book that makes me happy to read it and makes me know I could never be a writer because I am just not as brilliant as the author. I hope this book finds as big a readership as the book it is often compared to, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.

Profile Image for Lisa Roberts.
1,534 reviews
March 6, 2015
"I liked it" yes, I loved it and I also just didn't "get" it. This author is smarter than me and I had trouble following his language. I feel like this is a very intelligent book about race and friendship and family and the South and age but it is in a different world and uses ideas, concepts and language that made me feel old and out of touch. It is an excellent book that I feel I should re-read because I might understand it the second time. I also feel it is an important book following the aftermath of Ferguson, Missouri and the racial divide that still exists. Read Ron Charles' glowing review in the Washington Post-don't listen to me.
Profile Image for Kristin.
325 reviews
August 5, 2015
I received an arc copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you NetGalley!

So much hype has centered around this novel (Washington Post, NYT, NPR, etc.) so was so excited to get approved for this one. Unfortunately, I only made it 11% in before I just couldn't take the stream-of-consciousness (aka gibberish) writing style anymore. Parts of it were ok and I am sure there are some gems in this one, but it wasn't for me. The characters didn't even speak to me. Moving on to replace my "J" with another author for my A-Z Challenge.
Profile Image for Lea.
891 reviews192 followers
July 24, 2016
I bought this book in San Francisco in a bookshop called "City Lights Book" after spending almost two hours to decide what to get. They are fabulous and if I lived there I'd probably be there every week.

At it's best moments the book manages to be a clever, satirical yet heartfelt look at race in the US, the North/South divide, city life vs small towns, growing up, friendship and loss and academia. If you think this sounds a bit ambitious for 350 pages, you are right. It is ambitious and does not always work. Everything feels a bit underdeveloped, short. Especially because Johnson's style is also ambitious and poetic. I personally would have prefer a more straight forward way of writing but most of the time it fitted the theme.

The first 100 or so pages of the book are close to perfect. But I found it hard to get through the middle of the book which is also why it took me so long to finish it. It picked up steam again by the end, though.

I envy Johnson for his ability to make me uncomfortable and cringe, feel gut-wrenched and sad and and then laugh in a span of a few pages. I definitely want to read more of him. He has "perfect novel" potential.
Profile Image for Lauren Cecile.
Author 4 books326 followers
February 22, 2017
Challenging. Interesting story rife with socio-racial-economic issues. Writing style is hard to tackle.
Profile Image for LindaJ^.
2,169 reviews6 followers
November 2, 2015
My 8th book on the 2015 National Book Award for fiction and one that I think should have been a finalist. It is much better than at least one of the five finalist (which I've read). It is a challenging book, requiring close attention. I felt especially challenged because it falls in my least favorite type of book -- satire. And it satirizes a number of "institutions," including, but not limited to by any means, to liberal colleges (i.e., Berkley), the South, the press, social media, and special interest groups.

D'aron, or Daron, Darlington is a young white man from Braggsville, Georgia (population a bit over 700). He was the valedictorian of his high school class, who gave up hunting early and was often humiliated by his peers because of being a nerd. He gains admission to Berkley - as far away as he can get and stay on the continent. The first year is rough until near the end when he meets the others who comprise "the 4 little Indians." Candy is a blonde, white Iowan; Charlie is smart black Bostonian who looks like an athlete; Louis is an American Malaysian who loves to burst into comedy routines.

In the second semester of their sophomore year, they decide to all take the same history class. The professor seems to want them to look at the ugly underside of many events in American history -- treatment of the Indians, racism, etc. Daron mentions that his town holds an annual reenactment of the Civil War every Spring. Candy, always ready to take on causes, corrals the friends into conduction performance activism at the reenactment. Reluctantly, Daron takes them home with him on Spring break, having warned his mother to remove numerous politically incorrect items from their lawn. Unfortunately, he has little or no influence over the bumper stickers on peoples' cars and what comes out of their mouths.

Daron and Charlie back out of the performance piece, leaving Candy and Louis on their own. Louis goes blackface. Candy dresses like a slave. They stage a lynching, with Louis the one being hanged. And everything goes haywire - totally and completely wrong with deadly results. Up to this point even I get the humor. But afterwards the story turns dark and I found zero humor to be present.

This is a good book to read in these days of heightened scrutiny on how blacks are treated by cops and the criminal justice system. But it is not an easy read. This is not a book that can be glossed over. It concerns a lot of important issues in very real, if very exaggerated, way. There is a lot of latitude taken with grammar and structure. It is not always easy to know who is talking. But, it is definitely worth the effort.
Profile Image for Andre.
542 reviews146 followers
March 19, 2015
Whew! This is certainly a challenging read, very non-traditional, flushing all conventions that we normally associate with novels. No neat narration, no quotations to easily delineate the speakers, no simple and easy settings. Well all of that, along with the story is what makes it a 4 star effort. Rhythm, that is what it takes to make this a winning read for you, when one writes in a style that is...challenging, it takes effort by the reader to to catch the beat of the writer and the novel will flow like any other. It's almost like listening to music, and once the rhythm sets in, you find yourself bobbing your head.

The novel is heavy with satire and irony, even drawing attention to these obvious elements in some sentences, "Daron would get frustrated, growing more so when Louis would innocently ask the professor if sarcasm, social niceties, and euphemism were all irony's close cousins. The professor agreed."

The story centers around Daron, a native of Braggsville, Ga. He goes off to college to UC Berkeley and meets 3 students and they become fast friends. Through a course they are all taking together, they get the bright idea to stage a "performative intervention" in Daron's hometown of Braggsville to protest the long standing reenactment of the civil war, which Braggsville holds every year. Well the intervention goes horribly wrong and allows the author to satirize and ironize subjects and objects.

This is where the book really takes takes off, as the novel takes shots at racism, sexism, blackness, privilege and sexual identity and some other things. This is all done with powerful, majestic prose. I must admit that at times the language seems to be showy for showy's sake. It is a little bit overwritten in spots, but no so much that it becomes a major distraction. It is a novel that will challenge you as a reader and maybe some long held beliefs, but if you are looking for easy and simple keep searching. This is challenging and rewarding.
Profile Image for Stacey.
195 reviews26 followers
January 10, 2015
There are people who shouldn't read this book. If you believe that Bill O'Reilly and Rush Limbaugh write historically accurate books, don't read this one. If you feel secure in your own beliefs, because that's the way it's always been, and it's always worked just fine, thank you very much...don't read this book. Actually, you SHOULD read Welcome to Braggsville, but you probably won't like it. This book is highly provocative. I consider myself to be an open-minded liberal person, and I felt poked and prodded by every page.

Welcome to Braggsville is up-to-the-minute contemporary. Had it gone to press six months later, I suspect there would have been references to, "Hands up, don't shoot" and "I can't breathe," in addition to Trayvon Martin. But, don't misunderstand. This is not a story about police brutality. It's about growing up and coming to terms with who you are and what you believe...and why. It's about racism, sexism, homophobia, small-mindedness and the need to find a place to fit in.

To those of you who choose to read Welcome to Braggsville: Find someone to read with you, preferable someone who is not like you. You'll have plenty to talk about...and learn about yourself and them.
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