There is not much I can tell you about T. Geronimo Johnson’s Welcome to Braggsville without getting into what I consider spoiler territory. Other reviews and even the book jacket will tell you more than I will here, but I beg you to just go read the book with out seeking out any further information.
I read Johnson’s novel with no prior knowledge of its contents and that is an experience I’d like to share with you all. In the first half it reads very much like a campus novel, and a good one at that. Johnson’s writing is funny, his style is a unique blend of Southern Gothic and stream-of-consciousness and his protagonist D’aron Davenport, a Berkeley student from a modest family in the deep South, is both original and likeable. So before you even get to any of the “stuff” that happens, you’ll be reading the best novel you’ve come across in a while.
And then Johnson will punch you in the face.
Johnson’s style here has been compared to Diaz’s in The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao and I think the comparison is apt. Johnson doesn’t do as much with local dialect as Diaz does, but their quick-witted, luckless-in-love protagonists have a lot in common.
Perhaps I’m overstepping here because I’m not an American, but I believe that this book belongs in the cannon and should be taught alongside your Huck Finns and your Uncle Toms when talking about attitudes towards race. It’s the most American book I’ve ever read.
Standing ovation, five out of five Ernest Hemingways. Go read this book.