Book Review: Welcome To Braggsville by T. Geronimo Johnson

Author: T. Geronimo Johnson
TitleWelcome To Braggsville
NarratorMacLeod Andrews
Publication Info: HarperCollins Publishers and Blackstone Audio (2015)

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.

Recommended booksConfederates in the Attic by Tony Horwitz, We Love You, Charlie Freeman by Kaitlyn Greenidge, and The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
Rating: **1/2

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