Rick Bragg loves his momma. He’s a great writer and perhaps also something of a scoundrel. He grew up very poor in the Deep South with a drunken father and a saint for a mother and has been writing their stories into his stories as a journalist for the past few decades. He’s got a flair for finding the emotion in a story and showing it to you and he doesn’t shy away from making himself seem goofy or arrogant in the process. This book details his growing up, culminating in his Pulitzer Prize for journalism he did at the New York Times. He talks about taking his mom, who decided against getting new teeth for the awards banquet, to New York City where she had never seen an escalator before, or flown on a plane. He talks about having two brothers, one good like his Mom and one bad like his Daddy, and how he tries to deal with them as best he can.
Bragg later resigned from the New York Times under allegations of plagiarism and went on to write about Jessica Lynch’s troubles in Iraq. He’s never settled down, really, and he seems to always have an unsteady relationship with his past. These are stories that are worth reading, but not always easy to read. Bragg’s take on many issues -- the unfailing goodness of his mother for example, and the sometimes bizarre-seeming sacrifices she made for her family -- are not my own. However, I enjoy his language and I enjoy the warts-and-all apporach to his own personal history. And, as someone who has visited the Deep South but never really lived there, it’s a fascinating first person look into a world I can barely imagine, told by someone who I can at least somewhat relate to.