By Lauren Ebben
Time for a throwback. As the first book chosen for the AC Common Reader Program, former New York Times reporter Rick Bragg’s award-winning memoir “All Over but the Shoutin’” catalogues Bragg’s life growing up poor in the rural South with two brothers, a hard-working mother and an abusive alcoholic for a father.
Despite this however, the story he tells is not his own, not really. He wrote this book for his “momma”. So, it is mostly her story he tells.
He tells of her sacrifice, refusing to live on just welfare alone after her husband ran out on her and their three children. Instead she spent hours picking cotton in the fields, cleaning up other peoples’ messes and went 18 years without buying a new dress so her sons could have new clothes for school.
Bragg tells of her strength, too, how she stood “like a wall between her husband and sons” whenever the “tortured man” had too much to drink. He mentioned how she always found the strength, and the faith, to keep
going no matter how much she ached.
“I tell it because it is one of the few ways I can think of to repay her for all the suffering and indignity she absorbed for us, for me,” Bragg said in the book.
It was truly a mother’s sacrifice that gave Bragg the step he needed to “escape the poverty and hopelessness that ringed them, free and clean,” he made sure to point out.
This book will make readers laugh as Bragg describes the tale of his whiskey-making grandfather, and cry as he recounts the way his mother looked after accepting handouts of turkey and ham at Christmas, because sometimes, it was just too hard. Written with a characteristically Southern accent and sprinkled with humor in all the right places, Bragg’s words will cause readers to reflect on their own lives and the stories and people who have shaped them.
In addition to this book, Bragg has written five others, was the recipient of the 1996 Pulitzer Prize in feature writing for his work at the New York Times, and has won numerous other awards.