I feel incredibly fortunate today (not that I don't most days, but today is exceptional.) It seems as though every book I request or am sent is a seminal work. I'm sure the bubble will eventually burst, but boy, am I ever happy I got my hands on a copy of Welcome to Braggsville by T. Geronimo Johnson.
Braggsville, Georgia (population approximately 7000) is D'aron Davenport's home town. It is in the heart of the South, quite the contrast with UC Berkeley where he is going to university. It's there (Berzerkeley as it is affectionately called) that D'aron--now Daron to avoid confusion--finds three like-minded individuals to spend his time with. Candice (a Midwestern white girl,) Louis (an Asian guy who wants to become the first Lenny Bruce Lee,) Charlie (black, soft-spoken and seemingly confused,) and Daron join forces to become the 4 Little Indians: four very liberal students doing their best to invoke social change.
And so, after Daron informs them that there are Civil War reenactments performed in Braggsville, the crew decides to take a field trip. Their plan is to interrupt the reenactment with a fake lynching. Daron's father learns of the plan and forbids his son to step anywhere near it. Charlie is clearly not comfortable and opts out. Candice and Louis follow through. They rig a harness, Louis goes blackface and the worst case scenario is the one that Geronimo Johnson writes.
No--I am not going to tell you what happens. That would be a disservice. Welcome to Braggsville is hard-hitting and everyone should be hit. Hard.
There is still segregation. There is still racism. And even though everyone in Daron's world did their best the shield him from it, his eyes slowly open as the novel progresses. So he comes of age in a very scary way--triggered by a very scary thing that few people have ever experienced.
Obviously the idea of racism existing in the Deep South isn't very far fetched; most people wouldn't shake their heads and say "I just don't believe that in this day and age.." It was just extremely hard for D'aron, who grew up in its veil, to come to grips with.
And it's everywhere! I'm from Canada. As much as we like to pretend that we are all living in harmony, there is no way that anyone can argue that white people are no more priveleged than, oh, I don't know, the First Nations.
It's not groundbreaking, it was just done well. Johnson uses interesting, contemporary language. There is slang, he doesn't necessarily stick to a script. Everything you need to know is there, though. Most people will want to read it but I am sure some folks just don't want to hear it. So be it. People have a tendency to walk around with a blindfold rather than make themselves aware of problems in their environment and push for changes. There are characters in the book that are just the same: they do not want to stir the pot.
I liked the writing style(s), I liked the characters, the message is IMPORTANT and, to summarize, I loved the book in its entirety.
Get out there and read a copy if you're okay with listening to a serious matter in a different voice.