DeKalb author continues Forsyth controversy

Article in today’s DeKalb Neighbor

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By Bobby Tedder

Chamblee resident Jonathan Grant is destined to kick up some dust with his new novel, a unique take on Forsyth County’s checkered past.

“Brambleman” tackles Forsyth County’s reported acts of racism—violence-fueled expulsion of black residents in the early 1920s and ensuing white flight—and its repercussions unto the third and fourth generation.

Despite its historical context, Grant cautioned prospective readers not to expect the book to be “some dry, documentary treatment of historical events.”

In fact, he characterized the book as wildly funny, with a heavy supernatural twist and an anti-hero styled protagonist.

Grant, an admitted follower of the “smart alee principle,” said the book is not meant to further anyone’s politics but his own. “I don’t think I have an agenda quite like anyone else’s,” he said. “I wouldn’t say I’m Left or Right. I would say, give me time and I’ll end up offending everyone.”

The University of Georgia alum has encountered some semblance of resistance both while researching the book and promoting it thus far in its early days of publication. “I talked to people from Forsyth who wanted to argue … we, of course, disagree on its history,” Grant said. “Mainly, what I’ve . gotten is silence from the media—some people don’t want to touch it with a 10- foot pole.”

Grant acknowledged that the story will likely be controversial.  “Obviously, [Forsyth] is more diverse than it was,” Grant said. “Still, a lot of people are still really apprehensive about talking about the past,” Grant said.

Forsyth County again gained notoriety later in the 20th century when activist Hosea Williams led one of the largest civil rights marches—25,000 participants—there in 1987, a week after a smaller demonstration was quelled by white supremacists.

Grant called “Brambleman” an outgrowth of his work completing late father Donald L. Grant’s seminal work, “The Way It Was in the South: The Black Experience in Georgia.” The latter was awarded Georgia’s “Book of the Year” after its publication.

“I discovered the essential truth of the book when working on my father’s book—the issue of grace,” Grant said. “That emerges in all this madness … I doubt if we could do without it.”


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