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 reenactmentâa fierce, funny, tragic work from a bold new writer. He will be discussing his latest novel with April Sinclair at City Lights Booksellers.
T. Geronimo Johnson has taught writing and held fellowships at Arizona State University, University of Iowa, UC Berkeley, Western Michigan University, and Stanford. Johnson has also been a curriculum designer for Bay Area nonprofits and the director of the UC Berkeley Summer Creative Writing Program. His fiction and poetry have appeared in Best New American Voices, Indiana Review, the Los Angeles Review, and Illuminations, among other literary publications. His first novel, Hold It âTil It Hurts, was a finalist for the 2013 PEN/Faulkner Award for fiction.
April Sinclair is the Oakland-based best-selling author of Coffee Will Make You Black, Ain’t Gonna Be the Same Fool Twice. and I Left My Back Door Open.
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, 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 groupâs alternative history class, when Dâaron lets slip that his hometown hosts an annual Civil War reenactment, recently rebranded âPatriot Days.” His announcement is met with righteous indignation, and inspires Candice to suggest a âperformative interventionâ 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 Lynnâs 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.
For more information, check out the City Lights announcement.