Writers On Writing | T. Geronimo Johnson



how did Darren little made Davenport come to be the main character of welcome to Bragg's ville brags Ville is a story that I'd been taking notes on for probably maybe seven years just a sentence here or word there and when I actually started writing it started with that first sentence Darren the daring so when I actually sat down to write it started with the idea of this kid who's lived the life that's described in that first like really long sentence and I'd had the idea that he would be african-american and he would go off to school and at at college so to get a new look at his life in this small Georgia town and see greater possibilities for himself than he might have seen for his life as an african-american coming from a really small kind of segregated Georgia Georgia town but as i was working through the novel because i had the idea for what might happen but not how it would turn out and as i was actually doing the writing and leading up trying to build the story towards the the big confrontation i realized that it would be hard to convincingly right in african-american youth who would leave home and then go back and take on the power structure in quite that way and and then I was thinking also about just all the people I know in the south from smaller towns who are black and we tend to I'm not from a small town but saying like we as someone who's lived in the South tend to perhaps be more alert to those invisible lines that you shouldn't cross other the other reason that I wanted to make Darren white is because I thought it would be more interesting to to present this story through the eyes of a character who's had the privilege of his race without realizing it and also without necessarily intentionally exerting it on people someone who's not necessarily racist coming to understand how that has like played into and affected his life then I had a lot of anxiety about that too because then I thought well how will people react if I as an African American writer write a white main character in a story that has so much to do with race and I had all these concerns about whether or not I would be able to convey daring with sympathy and empathy because I think this is one of the most important things is expanding our notion of what it means to be human right and sort of growing our hearts then it it actually became easy because when I was thinking about my life the fact is that we're all so much like Darren because he's sort of split between two worlds and I think that we're all split between between several worlds and these identities are sometimes in conflict and I think that I know that for me they are and I assume that they are for a lot of other people because it just comes up in conversation sometime directly and indirectly and so that seemed to be interesting as well this idea what do you do when you're um you know what do you do when you have the the best intentions but you're working with the scenario that's so messy that it's almost impossible to have a have a good outcome and so that was something that was tied into darion's character as well but I think also it was and this is the part that sort of was maybe the hardest to deal with in the book this this notion that you can you can come to you we all come I'll just speak for myself like the things i know about myself that I don't like about myself right there things I want to do better as a person and and so then I tried to just sort of bring these sort of elements into the book as well and so to flush him out as someone who's gradually coming to realize that maybe the world isn't exactly as he's been told and maybe it isn't exactly as he wants it to be and he's trying to figure out what if anything he can do about it and to me just just wanting to is a lot because that's that sort of the beginning of the journey what am I challenging people to feel or think after reading Bragg's ville that's a great question because I don't I don't want to say exactly what I want people to think because I want people to walk away from the book with what they feel the book is about but what I want them to perhaps think about in general is maybe the difference between thinking and having a thought like the idea that you have having a thought I would say is not the same thing as actually thinking we inherit so many ideas from other people that we think are our own just directly and indirectly advise our parents give us and then there's all the passive learning that we pick up from our friends in our community and these thoughts just sort of run through our head at times but they're not it's not really thinking right it's is there just sort of thoughts and so I would just hope that at the end of reading Bragg's ville someone might ask themselves whether or not the thoughts that they have about other humans actually reflect their experience with those people or if it's just thoughts that they've inherited from others

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