Former Atlanta-based writer, T. Geronimo Johnson, wins inaugural $50,000 literary prize

T. Geronimo Johnson, photo credit: Elizabeth Cowan

Former Atlanta resident T. Geronimo Johnson is the winner of the $50,000 Simpson Family Literary Prize. The new award, named for philanthropists Barclay and Sharon Simpson and their family, honors mid-career authors.

Johnson is the author of Hold It ‘Til It Hurts, his debut novel which was a finalist for the Pen Faulkner Award and Welcome to Braggsville, which the Georgia Center for the Book named one of the ten books all Georgians should read.

A native of New Orleans, Johnson lived in Atlanta for 20 years. His second novel, Welcome to Braggsville, is a dark comedy about four University of California Berkeley students who travel to Georgia to stage a protest during a Civil War re-enactment.

“To be named the inaugural recipient of the Simpson Family Literary Prize is an honor I treasure as both a novelist and an educator,” said Johnson, who currently teaches writing at UC Berkeley.

The prize money will support his latest work which “explores the convergence of Afro-futurism; global AI; the economic imperatives that amplify cultural differences; corporate religion (in all manifestations); and tech inequity,” said Johnson in a statement. The novel, he said, presents the same question as his previous novels: How do we learn to care about people who are not like us?

“T. Geronimo Johnson is a brilliantly inventive, audacious, ever-surprising yet warmly sympathetic chronicler of our turbulent America of the early 21st century,” said author Joyce Carol Oates, a member of the Simpson Literary Project Committee, in a statement. “Readers will find (Welcome to Braggsville) touching and hilarious by turns, tragic and revelatory, wise beyond the years of its young and dazzlingly talented author,” she said.

The Simpson Family Literary Project is a private/public partnership of the Lafayette Library and Learning Center Foundation and the English Department at UC Berkeley. Three other authors were short-listed for the prize: Valeria Luiselli, Lori Ostlund and Dana Spiotta.

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