February 17, 2015

When home doesn’t feel like home anymore

By T. Geronimo Johnson
Review by
In Welcome to Braggsville, four Berkeley college friends decide to protest a Civil War re-enactment by staging a “performative intervention.
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In Welcome to Braggsville, four Berkeley college friends decide to protest a Civil War re-enactment by staging a “performative intervention.” Daron, the white protagonist from small-town Braggsville, Georgia, where the “Patriot Days” celebration is held, reluctantly accompanies his friends to his home: Candice, whom Daron yearns for, an earnest activist who claims to be part-Native American; Charlie, a quiet black teen from Chicago; and Louis, an Asian kid from California with aspirations to be a stand-up comedian.

Daron finds that his time spent in the enclave of "Beserkerly" has made him uncomfortably conscious of his town’s casual racism. When they put their plan in motion, things quickly go from comic to tragic.

It’s the telling that sets this book apart. Madcap, satirical, sometimes profane and uncanny in his descriptions, whether he’s portraying self-conscious academia or a backyard barbecue, T. Geronimo Johnson is both a relentless social critic and a compassionate bystander as he narrates the story through Daron’s eyes. The four friends, who dub themselves “the 4 Little Indians,” are naïve in the beginning—young and idealistic, fresh from the intellectual hothouse of Berkeley, they are convinced that ideas will win the day. When faced with entrenched hatred and fear, however, Daron realizes that ideas don’t carry much weight. He muses, “It had been hard not to feel a smug pride when he brought home this menagerie. . . . but now he felt as if he had driven through town with a fourteen-point buck strapped across his hood. Of course by nightfall everyone would be cold-nosing the back door after a slice.”

Though Johnson enjoys poking fun at the righteous arguments of scholars and militia members alike, his own questions about race and culture resonate throughout the book. Welcome to Braggsville is a deeply pleasurable read for the sheer wonder of Johnson’s prose, but a deeply disturbing read for the truth it reveals about us.


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Welcome to Braggsville

Welcome to Braggsville

By T. Geronimo Johnson
ISBN 9780062302144

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