Every life deserves a certain amount of dignity, no matter how poor or damaged the shell that carries it.
I need an intern. At my house. Every day. The sink’s clogged, the dog barks, and the kids are constantly hungry. Good thing I’m a one-step-at-a-time kinda girl. When I went to Costco to fetch Liquid Plumr, I strolled by the books only to find Kate DiCamillo’s latest Raymie Nightingale. So I picked it up and put it in the cart with mass amounts of the powerful gel. That’s what I call multi-tasking! DiCamillo is an author I can count on to deliver. We all know authors like that, don’t we? Jane Austen, Ivan Doig, Kaye Gibbons, Khaled Hosseini, Toni Morrison, Roald Dahl, C.S. Lewis, and so many more top my list. (Rachel might faint if I don’t add one of hers and everyone else’s, J.K. Rowling.) As soon as I finish reading Rae’s Christmas gift My Southern Journey, I’ll know whether or not I can include Rick Bragg to my prestigious stack of favorites.
I’m throwin it back to 1998 today, when Bragg published All Over but the Shoutin’. Bragg ain’t just whistling Dixie in this sobering, funny, moving memoir. He dispels the notion that any white man who lives in poverty does so by choice. He and his brothers were robbed of their collective childhood because his defunct father, always three sheets to the wind, has a bad habit of running out on his family. Bragg’s angel mother, Margaret, picked other people’s cotton, and went 18 years without a new dress, just to put grubby clothes on her boys’ back and a little bit of food in their mouths. “Turning hard scrabble into a pleasant memory was something Margaret Bragg would do for her boy again and again as he grew.” Margaret is an unforgettable, inspiring character who makes me want to do better. She alone is likely the reason her son, who was more destined for the state pen than the Pulitzer, became something.
Rick Bragg is a storyteller extraordinaire. Maybe one of the very best? This book is definitely worth a read. And a re-read. Maybe I don’t need an intern afterall? Just some time for a little southern comfort will do right about now.