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Welcome to Braggsville by T. Geronimo…

Welcome to Braggsville

by T. Geronimo Johnson

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2751658,587 (3.4)30



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Showing 1-5 of 16 (next | show all)
Honestly, I didn't think this was a very good book. Despite the hype and praise I've been seeing in a couple of places, I just didn't get why this book is getting so many rave reviews. Deemed as a work of satire, I thought it tried hard to be a little too "cute" and the stream of consciousness way of writing really got in the way of what the author was trying to say.
D'aron (or Daron, apparently the apostrophe is mistake of some sorts as he explains) is a young man who has moved from a very small town in Georgia to attend school in liberal Berkeley. In many ways he is a fish out of water both academically and socially. But things change at a party, where he meets three other people (a young black man, a young woman claiming to have Native American ancestry and a Malaysian student who is also his roommate) that will form a bond of friendship.
When the gang learns D'aron's hometown is planning to perform its annual Civil War reenactment, they decide to protest it. This is where things go awry.
The first five or so chapters were pretty good, with D'aron trying to find his way at Berkeley and trying to find his niche. I'm a long way away from being a college student, but I could understand his feelings of isolation and academic stress. I'm also familiar with the San Francisco Bay Area, so it was really fascinating and fun to see local names and places sprinkled in the text.
But after that the book really goes downhill. There are both time and location skips that I felt really jarred the reader instead of helping me understand the story more. The flips between spelling the character's name as D'aron vs. Daron, was, quite frankly, stupid. There what appears to be a 15 page paper by the main character on interactions between characters at a BBQ inserted in the text, which I assume was meant to parody the structure and layout of such reports. And so forth.
As a concept, I loved it. There was some commentary about race, politics, cultural differences, class, etc. that made me cringe in recognizing what the author was discussing/criticizing, etc. But execution falls short and the author gets too bogged down with a lot of clutter and trying to cram in too many concepts and ideas alike.
I also somewhat wonder if this came across as somewhat dated. Although Civil War reenactment is something that still happens, and many of the concepts are absolutely still relevant today, I found it a little odd that the author dropped in several very contemporary references (ie TIVO'ing Battlestar Galactica, the Disney film WALL-E, etc.). For me it came across as the author trying a little too hard to put this in a very specific time period (and place in Berkeley and Braggsville) and I'm not sure if that's a good thing or not.
It wasn't for me, but others seemed to enjoy it. ( )
  acciolibros | Feb 11, 2018 |
This novel is a social satire rooted in current events related to racism and culture wars. The protagonist of the story is D'aron, a young white man from a rural Georgia community who escapes to study at University of California, Berkeley. Overwhelmed by the culture shock of "Berzerkeley," D'aron eventually finds solace in the company of three other misfits: Louis, a Malaysian student and comic; Charlie, a large black man from Chicago who looks like a football player but is actually preppy; and Candice, a white woman from Iowa who claims to be part Native American. When D'aron lets slip in class that his hometown stages an annual Civil War reenactment, the four come up with a plan a "performative intervention" by staging the lynching of a slave and filming interviews with the townspeople responding to the intervention. I shan't spoil the novel, but things go horribly wrong. Johnson is an equal-opportunity parodist, satirizing both the "backwards" white people of rural Georgia and their defense of their heritage, but also mocking the ways that academia wallows in theory that is disconnected from the reality of lived lives. What keeps the book from being merely a big scolding is that its four main characters are well-developed, believable, and interesting people. The latter part of the book after "the incident" is less interesting than the beginning as it gets bogged down in navel-gazing over what happened. Still it's an interesting story and commentary on contemporary society. ( )
  Othemts | Oct 5, 2017 |
A kid from the Deep South goes off to attend Berkeley, where he happens to mention to some of his friends the annual Civil War re-enactment that takes place in his home town. The friends are appalled, and one of them comes up with the idea of showing up at the event and staging a "performative intervention": a re-enactment of the lynching of an escaped slave, intended as a form of protest. This... does not go well.

This is a book I find myself with hard-to-pin-down mixed feelings about. At various points during the novel, I found myself thinking that the social commentary was a little too obvious, or a little too hard to interpret clearly, or nicely nuanced in a way that provides a lot to chew on but very few pat answers. (I suppose it's entirely possible that it is, in fact, all three.) I also thought the was writing sometimes clever and evocative, but sometimes too clever, too obscure, too overdone. In the end, I don't know if I enjoyed reading it (in whatever sense "enjoyed" is even the appropriate word for a story like this), or that I was entirely satisfied with it. But I do feel glad to have read it, I think. ( )
2 vote bragan | Sep 12, 2016 |
Welcome to Braggsville by T. Geronimo Johnson is a highly recommended novel that faces down some stereotypes and assumptions with amazing wit and insight.

D'aron Little May Davenport has left his hometown of Braggsville, Georgia, to attend college as far away from Georgia as he can get - the University of California, Berkeley. He and Louis Chang, his roommate and an aspiring comedian, meet Candice, an Iowan, and Charlie, a black prep school student at a dot party where the four are accused of being insensitive. Soon they become close friends and dub themselves the "4 Little Indians."

The four friends take a class called "American History X, Y, and Z: Alternative Perspectives," which spurs them on to make their first political statement of outrage, which fails miserably. When D'aron mentions that Braggsville has a Civil War re-enactment the group decides to go to Georgia and stage a protest that is more a performance piece than based on any true social outrage. The performance goes terribly wrong and suddenly the students and the town are confronting some racial and social realities, as well as other ideological positions that they never anticipated.

Johnson opens the novel with a glossary of terms the students will be using, which should clue you in that this is mainly a humorous novel, even while it brings some serious topics to light. There are a lot of preconceptions of many makes and ideologies, all presented with keen insight and satire. Johnson presents real historical social situations and makes connections between them, while shifting from comedy to tragedy. The main exploration is of racism in the South and the tension that still exists.

This is a well written novel. I'll admit feeling a bit of distance from the characters at the beginning, as they seemed to me to be so very young and naive. As the novel progressed, I appreciated Johnson's skill much more because of the way he allows his characters to grow amidst all the contradictory elements we see around us in contemporary America.

Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of HarperCollins for review purposes. ( )
  SheTreadsSoftly | Mar 21, 2016 |
Damn was I relieved to read the Goodreads reviews of Welcome to Braggsville and discover that reasonably intelligent people found this as hard to read as I did. I received this book in the Book Riot Best of 2015 Box but it was already on my to-read list so I can't even blame Book Riot for it.

It starts out strong - the reader is dropped in the middle of a group of people at a California University, all of whom feel like they don't fit in, who come together and form their own little band of misfits. But then there are all these weird random chapters where words are just repeated over and over again, or you get a ton of details about something that doesn’t feel important (and inevitably isn't important), or chapters that are stream of consciousness with numerous characters and it's never clear whose thoughts they are. These chapters are supposed to be playful or cutting edge or something, I assume, but for this reader they're just distracting. They did not add plot points and they seemed overall unnecessary.

Just as I was about to give up on this book, all of a sudden this . . . thing happened. I don't want to say what it is because it's an enormous plot point to give away but essentially this book that was about these kids who wouldn't normally mix, you know, mixing, was about . . . something else entirely. This was almost halfway into the book! It felt manipulative. I wondered why the hell the author had bothered with all these pages about other things when the story was way over there, as it turns out, but, in the end, it also worked on me. I was back on board.

And then it happened all over again. These interesting and complicated conversations on race and . . . other things, took a back-burner to weirdo chapters that served no purpose.

If I was rating Welcome to Braggsville chapter by chapter there'd be a hell of a lot of 5-star chapters and plenty of 1-star chapters. This was one of those books that I really, really wanted to love much more than I did. In the end, finishing it was a chore and I don't know that I'd recommend it to anyone ( )
1 vote agnesmack | Mar 12, 2016 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0062302124, Hardcover)

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 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. 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.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:25:07 -0400)

"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 liberal UC Berkeley students who stage a mock lynching during a Civil War reenactment--a fierce, funny, tragic work from a bold new writer"--… (more)

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