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.