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Ava's Man
Ava's Man


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All Over But the Shoutin'
All Over But the Shoutin'

Somebody Told Me
Somebody Told Me

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Rick Bragg, author of the critically acclaimed and best-selling All Over but the Shoutin' and a Pulitzer Prize-winning national correspondent for the New York Times, says he learned to tell stories by listening to the masters, the people of the foothills of the Appalachians. They talked, of the sadness, poverty, cruelty, kindness, hope, hopelessness, faith, anger and joy of their everyday lives, and painted pictures on the very haze of the early evening, when work faded into story-telling.

Those stories are the backbone of his third book, Ava's Man, the story of a whiskey man, poacher, roofer and folk legend who was his mother's father, and the grandfather he never saw.

His first book, Shoutin', was the story of a mother who absorbed the cruelties of an alcoholic husband haunted by his service in the Korean War, and showed how she gave her life, in endless cotton fields, to make a living for her three sons. The book, a New York Times notable book of the year, won several awards and was selected as one of the best books of the year by several news organizations and reader groups.

But more important than the fact it made the New York Times Best-Seller list, says Bragg, is the fact that the book became an anthem for the working people and poor people of the modern-day South.

Bragg was born in Alabama, grew up there, and worked at several newspapers before joining the New York Times in 1994. He covered the murder and unrest in Haiti while a metro reporter there, then wrote about the Oklahoma City bombing, the Jonesboro killings, the Susan Smith trial and more as a national correspondent based in Atlanta. He later became Miami Bureau Chief for the Times just in time for Elian Gonzalez's arrival and the international battle for the little boy. He is now a roving correspondent based in New Orleans.

He has twice won the prestigious American Society of Newspaper Editors Distinguished Writing Award, and more than 50 writing awards in his 20-year career. In 1992, he was awarded a Nieman Fellowship at Harvard University. He has taught writing in colleges and in newspaper news rooms.

He is also the author of Somebody Told Me, a critically acclaimed collection of his newspaper stories.

He is single, likely to stay that way, and lives in a shotgun double house not far from the levee and the train tracks in Uptown New Orleans, where he has cultivated several fine weeds in his back yard.

He likes to fish when he can find the time. He has not fished in two years.

The Pulitzer Prize–winning author of All Over but the Shoutin’ continues his personal history of the Deep South with an evocation of his mother’s childhood in the Appalachian foothills during the Great Depression, and the magnificent story of the man who raised her.

Charlie Bundrum was a roofer, a carpenter, a whiskey-maker, a fisherman who knew every inch of the Coosa River, made boats out of car hoods and knew how to pack a wound with brown sugar to stop the blood. He could not read, but he asked his wife, Ava, to read him the paper every day so he would not be ignorant. He was a man who took giant steps
in rundown boots, a true hero whom history would otherwise have overlooked.

In the decade of the Great Depression, Charlie moved his family twenty-one times, keeping seven children one step ahead of the poverty and starvation that threatened them from every side. He worked at the steel mill when the steel was rolling, or for a side of bacon or a bushel of peaches when it wasn’t. He paid the doctor who delivered his fourth daughter, Margaret—Bragg’s mother—with a jar of whiskey. He understood the finer points of the law as it applied to poor people and drinking men; he was a banjo player and a buck dancer who worked off fines when life got a little sideways, and he sang when he was drunk, where other men fought or cussed. He had a talent for living.

His children revered him. When he died, cars lined the blacktop for more than a mile.

Rick Bragg has built a soaring monument to the grandfather he never knew—a father who stood by his family in hard times and left a backwoods legend behind—in a book that blazes with his love for his family, and for a particular stretch of dirt road along the Alabama-Georgia border. A powerfully intimate piece of American history as it was experienced by the working people of the Deep South, a glorious record of a life of character, tenacity and indomitable joy and an unforgettable tribute to a vanishing culture, Ava’s Man is Rick Bragg at his stunning best.