UHV presenter focuses on race, equality in writing
March 10, 2017 at 12:06 a.m.
Updated March 10, 2017 at 6 a.m.
Brenda and Robert Serrata, of Victoria, were so awed to learn how T. Geronimo Johnson's second novel, "Welcome to Braggsville," ends that they bought a copy after hearing the author read an excerpt Thursday.
The University of Houston-Victoria hosted Johnson at the American Book Review Reading Series on Thursday.
"The way he presents made me curious to see what the book's all about," Brenda Serrata said.
Johnson read several sections from the book during his presentation.
For his second novel, Johnson received a National Book Award Longlist in 2015.
The coming-of-age novel focuses on D'aron, a Georgia southerner who attends the University of California at Berkeley. Themes include race, class and gender.
"It never goes well if you force anyone to learn a lesson in life," Johnson said.
The character struggles with fitting in because he is from a small town in Georgia.
Johnson also answered audience questions about his writing process, where he's from and the book's reception.
Johnson's writing style comes from growing up in New Orleans and Maryland, where he experienced planned chaos and planned structure, he said.
His mother taught him to treat everyone equally, and his father, who was an attorney, taught him empathy, Johnson said.
"There are very different ways of being in the world, but that doesn't mean people still can't come together," he said.
Johnson said his writing process is guided by how he feels. The novel's ending was originally at a game show.
The end focuses on veteran integration because Johnson wanted to find a way to bring awareness to the conversation, he said.
"When it feels like it works for you, it might not work for anyone else," he said. "It's a really unpredictable process."
Initially, Johnson thought writing the book would mean the end of his career, he said. However, the book's reception has been good.
"What's really going on is that we have a lot of issues we are all grappling with, and they are hard to talk about, but we are in a climate that is increasingly hard because people are afraid to say the wrong thing," he said. "In the book, there is space for caring without perfection."