Welcome to Braggsville
By T. Geronimo Johnson
Brought to you by OBS reviewer Kayt
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 ofThe 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.
The main character in Welcome to Braggsville is D’aron Davenport, a fish out of water enrolled in UC Berkley. He is from Braggsville, Georgia, a small Dixie town with old traditions and old ideas. Coming from his small town ways, D’aron (why the apostrophe, he explains it was a mistake) has a hard time fitting in to the extreme liberal atmosphere of Berzerkeley. As he struggles in class he also struggles finding his place on campus and finding friends. He is forced to leave his first dorm room and ends up sharing a room with Louis who had taken over the entire room. Louis becomes his ever present friend. His comedy and out going personality help D’aron get to a party that ends up changing his course.
D’aron and roomy Louis end up being booted from a party with two other out of place students and the four become the best of friends. Not your normal quad of buddies, D’aron – a white southerner from a small Georgia town, Louis – an asian comedian from California, Charlie – a black student from the inner-city with an athletic body and Candice – a white student from Iowa that claims miniscule Native American heritage and must always fix the injustices of her world. These “4 Little Indians” spend as much time as possible with each other, including taking an alternative history class. There it is revealed that D’aron’s hometown hosts an annual Civil War reenactment. The “4 Little Indians” make a trip to Braggsville to show the small talk folk how wrong they are. They decide to do a “performative intervention” to protest. Makeshift slave costumes, a planned lynching, and their misguided knowledge of the South are their weapons.
The writing style of T. Geronimo Johnson was very hard for me to wade through. Although I am sure many will enjoy his wit, sarcasm and jabs at current affairs, to me it was wordy and disjointed. This is a book with big ideas, written for a “new generation”. So maybe my generation has a hard time understanding this new writing style. I had a hard time relating to the characters and the ideals of many of them. As a southerner I thought I would have some insight into them. However, I would not recognize any of these southerners, westerners, college students or anything. I truly believe that this is a good book, but it is not for me at all. I would recommend Welcome to Braggsville to anyone that enjoys satirical look at today’s youth, today’s issues and a cast of misfits.