Welcome to Braggsville by T. Geronimo Johnson

“We are never allowed to forget that some books are badly written; we should remember that sometimes they’re badly read, too.”

Nick Hornby, The Polysyllabic Spree

I love this quote.  For the recordWelcome to Braggsville is NOT badly written. However, I think that perhaps it has been badly read – by me.  Or maybe I’m just not a good fit for this book.  I’d heard so many good things and such interesting buzz about it, from folks at Book Riot and all sorts of other bookish places.  The premise is intriguing and original.  Four college students at UC Berkeley travel to Braggsville, a podunk town in Georgia and the hometown of the book’s central character, to film a “performative intervention” during the town’s annual Civil War reenactment.  What could go wrong? (Ha ha.)
We need books like this – challenging, smart, ironic – to be publicized, read, and discussed.  America is still – STILL! – so messed up about race.  I’m not going to go off on a tangent about that.  But I will propose that perhaps a place to begin the difficult dialogue is through reading books by and about people who aren’t like us. This is why I picked up Braggsville.  I wanted to be challenged.  I wanted to be made to think.  And I was, most definitely.
But I also wished that I’d enjoyed the experience of reading this book more than I did.  Johnson’s style, at least in this novel, was too frenetic and cluttered for me. References were made that I am sure I missed (not the author’s fault, but still.)  Punctuation was lacking.  It was difficult at times to tell who was speaking.  There were many digressions that did not service the story.  The experience of reading Braggsville became a slog, and I had to push to finish it.  That’s never a good feeling.  I’m glad I read it, because it’s a work that’s bound to come up around awards time at the end of the year. I’m almost sure it will be in next year’s Tournament of Books. But I felt like the writing got in the way of the story.
I can see why some people gave it four and five-star ratings on Goodreads.  It’s got a lot of smart, sometimes scorching things to say about the society we live in, the schools we go to, our prejudices, our participation in social media.  Everyone – and I do mean everyone – gets skewered.  It would make an excellent choice for a book group discussion.  Maybe it was just the time in my life, or the season, or that I simply felt the weight of all the other books I want to read pressing up against this one.  Whatever the reason, it just wasn’t my cup of tea.

2 thoughts on “Welcome to Braggsville by T. Geronimo Johnson

  1. Too bad the book and you didn’t get along like you had hoped. I’ve not heard of it before but it sounds intriguing and definitely on a good subject!


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