The Chattahoochee Review Guest Author Series is pleased to welcome T. Geronimo Johnson, winner of the 2015 Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence to Georgia State University’s Perimeter College on Thursday, April 28, 2016, for a reading from his work and a Q-and-A session about the craft of fiction writing. Since the publication of his critically acclaimed debut novel, Hold it ’til it Hurts (2012), Johnson has built a solid reputation for creating transcendent contemporary American literary fiction marked by its smartly crafted, affecting writing, and its capacity to gauge the intellectual, moral, and cultural temperature of society.
In Welcome to Braggsville—his second novel, winner of the Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence, and long-listed nominee for the National Book Award and the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction—Johnson employs all of the elements of satire to create a literary coming-of-age novel for a new generation that crosses social boundaries and surpasses reader categories. Described by The New York Times Book Review as “the funniest sendup of identity politics, the academy and white racial anxiety to hit the scene in years,” the novel depicts a New South that interweaves the highbrow with the lowbrow, skewering issues of class, race, intellectual chauvinism and wayward liberalism, while blending in references to hip-hop, marijuana, “Battlestar Galactica,” and Twitter.
D’aron Davenport, the protagonist of the novel, is a 19-year-old white student born and raised in the heart of old Dixie who finds himself in unfamiliar territory his freshman year at UC Berkeley. Caught between the prosaic values of his rural hometown of Braggsville, Georgia, and the intellectualized multicultural cosmopolitanism of the ultraliberal college campus, D’aron is uncertain of his place in the world, until a disastrous party brings him three idiosyncratic best friends: Louis, a “kung fu” comedian from California; Candice, an earnest do-gooder from Iowa claiming Native American roots; and Charlie, an introspective inner-city black teen from Chicago. When D’aron’s three friends learn that Braggsville still hosts Civil War reenactments, they, along with D’aron, decide to travel to the small Georgia town to express their “righteous indignation” by staging a “performative intervention”—a mock lynching—for a class project. Their journey, through backwoods churches, backroom politics, Waffle Houses, and drunken family barbecues, is uproarious to start, but has surprising and ultimately devastating consequences for everyone the students meet.
To hear more about Welcome to Braggsville and how T. Geronimo Johnson threads social criticism throughout his poignant and provocative prose, please join The Chattahoochee Review on April 28 from 11:30 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. in NB-2100/2101 on the Dunwoody campus. All are welcome to attend, and faculty members are encouraged to bring their classes. Book sales and a signing will take place at the end of the reading.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Born and raised in New Orleans, T. Geronimo Johnson received his MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and his M.A. in Language, Literacy, and Culture from UC Berkeley. His second novel, the bestselling Welcome to Braggsville, was longlisted for the 2015 National Book Award, the 2015 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence, named one of the ten books all Georgians should read by the Georgia Center for the Book, and won the 2015 Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence. A former Stegner Fellow, Johnson has taught writing at UC Berkeley, Stanford University, the Writers’ Workshop, the Prague Summer Program, San Quentin, and elsewhere. His first novel, Hold it ’til it Hurts, was a finalist for the 2013 PEN/Faulkner Award. Johnson lives in Berkeley, California. T. Geronimo Johnson will be the keynote speaker at the award ceremony for the 2016 Townsend Prize for Fiction held on April 28 at 6 p.m. at the DeKalb History Center/Old Courthouse on the Square.
AUTHOR QUOTE: “I write for the ones who didn’t get away. . . .It’s equally important to acknowledge that there are as many narratives that are lived every day and in many of these people are not fairly rewarded. . . . Bradbury said we write about futures so they won’t happen. Maybe we write about pasts we hope not to revisit.
The Chattahoochee Review Guest Author Series was created to connect the strong, vibrant, and diverse literary community The Chattahoochee Review has built over the course of its 35-year publishing history to the college’s EDGE Quality Enhancement Plan such that students have a greater opportunity to engage with real-world writers who can better shape their writing and understanding of literature in all of its forms.