"A house without books is like a room without windows." -Horace Mann

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

All Over But The Shoutin'

by Rick Bragg

Yesterday my family decided to get together for game night.  My mother offered to take all five of the grandkids to her house for a slumber party, so we could actually enjoy ourselves without interruption.  How can you turn down such an offer?!  As I sit her in my house that is completely silent, void of demands for bread and butter, diaper changes, and cartoon noises, I am once again so grateful for a mother who has and continues to sacrifice for her children and grandchildren.  It may seem a small thing, but it is not.

My book today is one of her favorites and mine as well.  When my parents moved to Louisiana for two years due to dad's job, they suddenly became immersed in the southern culture, very different from where they came from.  They began to appreciate, more and more, the literature of the South, with its unique language, peculiar humor and rich heritage.  The best of these works are usually about the people on the poorest margins of society, black and white alike.

One of the first they recommended to me was All Over but the Shoutin'", which is a memoir about the author's childhood growing up as a "white trash" boy in the rural Alabama hills.  His father is a heavy drinker that has a bad temper and often runs out on his family when they need him most.  But the real focus of this book is on Bragg's mother, a strong-willed woman determined to get her children educated and off welfare.  She picks cotton, goes without new clothes for eighteen years, and quietly goes about working miracles amid seemingly impossible circumstances.

Rick Bragg received the Pulitzer Prize in 1996 for his feature writing in the New York Times.  His memoir writing is honest and forthright about his life, and yet it is full of such beautiful language and imagery and detail that you feel a part of the story and are sad to leave it at the end.  He has written a number of other books, including Ava's Man and Prince of Frogtown which are also memoirs about his family, and just as good as this one. 

Here's to my mother, and all mothers who give up so much of themselves for their family.

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