WELCOME TO BRAGGSVILLE

T Geronimo Johnson

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,

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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 BraggsvilleThe 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.

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  • William Morrow Paperbacks
  • Paperback
  • September 2015
  • 400 Pages
  • 9780062302137

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About T Geronimo Johnson

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.

Praise

“Great American writers whose names came to mind as I was reading Welcome to Braggsville: Tom Wolfe, Mark Twain, Toni Morrison, H.L. Mencken, Don DeLillo, David Foster Wallace, Norman Mailer and Ralph Ellison. Johnson’s timely novel is a tipsy social satire . . . a tour de force.” — NPR's Fresh Air

“A rollicking satire . . . Radical, hilarious, tragic, and all too relevant.” — O Magazine

“The most dazzling, most unsettling, most oh-my-God-listen-up novel you’ll read this year. T. Geronimo Johnson plays cultural criticism like it’s acid jazz. His shockingly funny story pricks every nerve of the American body politic. Welcome to Braggsville. It’s about time.” — The Washington Post

“The unsettling racial satire America needs right now . . . Welcome to Braggsville doesn’t offer easy polemic or easier sentimentality, but a deep dive into the American race problem as muddled, terrifying, and absurd as the reality.” — Huffington Post

Discussion Questions

The main settings are Berkeley, CA, and Braggsville, GA. What are the primary

characteristics of these towns, and why does the author juxtapose them? Is there significance to

the nickname “Berzerkley”? What about Braggsville’s town motto, “The city that love built”?

The main character is introduced as D'aron, but he drops the apostrophe when he reaches

college. What do you think this signifies about his changing self-identity? What is the implication

later in the book when both spellings are used in his internal monologue? Do you think these

two parts of his identity are reconcilable?

What does the story of Ishi, the Native American who lived in a museum exhibit, symbolize

for Candice? Can you think of a historical figure or event that has had a profound influence on

your world view?

At Berkeley, the students are encouraged to utilize “performative intervention” to shock

onlookers into engaging with uncomfortable topics they might otherwise ignore. Do you think

this type of political performance is a worthwhile and eye-opening approach, or is it too avantgarde

to ever be useful?

In the beginning of the book, D'aron views his parents as uneducated and unworldly, but later

his perception of their world view seems to evolve. Do you think the author intended the reader

to like or dislike them? Can they and the other Braggsvillians be categorized as simply “good” or

“bad”?

Compare and contrast D'aron's personality with his cousin, Quint. Have you ever had a friend

or relative with a wildly different world view? Were you able to make your relationship work in

spite of your differences?

Louis' brand of humor frequently makes light of issues around race and culture, but he isn't

characterized as a racist. What differentiates his jokes from Quint's? Does his stand-up routine

help him get along with D'aron's family? Under what circumstances do you think it's “okay” to

joke about race?

After the staged lynching, when Candice returns to the Davenports' home in torn clothes from

the direction of the black neighborhood, D'aron assumes she was raped and picks up a gun to

retaliate, even though she never states this herself. What do these actions suggest about

D'aron's internalized prejudice? How do his prejudices affect his behavior toward Charlie when

Charlie later makes a personal revelation?

In the aftermath of the “Incident at Braggsville,” the Davenports come under scrutiny, and it's

suggested that D'aron may have masterminded the entire event. Does this

warped interpretation of the facts parallel the way real news is reported through media channels

today? Can you think of a news story that you felt misrepresented or omitted information to

serve the agenda of the author or reporting agency?

The militia touts itself as a well-meaning group of concerned citizens, but their stronghold on

the city is extreme, as evidenced by the abrupt shift in the way the Davenports are treated after

D'aron visits the hunting lodge. Have you ever belonged to a group in which the majority's viewpoints were so strong you felt you could not disagree with them? Did you choose to leave

the group, if you could?

Jo-Jo and D'aron are forced into a startling and severe punishment ritual by the militia. Is

this a “performative intervention” of its own kind? Between Jo-Jo’s physical castigation and

D’aron’s banishment from the town, which do you think is more severe and why?

In the “Sexicon,” the author defines Braggsville as “U.S. of A,” and vice versa. Do you think

Braggsville is a microcosm of the United States? In which ways do you perceive it to be similar

to or different from the country as a whole? Is Berkeley depicted as an ideal environment, or is

it criticized for its own shortcomings?