Reading Together to Feature Rick Bragg

Sep 5/, 2008 04:22:56 PM

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Kalamazoo, MI –

Kalamazoo Public Library announces the selection of Rick Bragg’s series of memoirs, All Over But the Shoutin’, Ava’s Man, and the recently published The Prince of Frogtown for the 2009 Reading Together program. Readers may choose to read any one or more of the series, as all feature the same themes.

Reading Together book discussions and a wide variety of special events will take place in March and April of 2009. Author Bragg will visit Kalamazoo on April 14, 2009, during National Library Week to conclude this year’s program.

About Reading Together 

Reading Together invites people of all ages from all walks of life to read and then discuss important issues raised by a single book. Thousands of county residents have participated in six previous Reading Together programs.

Kalamazoo Public Library leads Reading Together with the collaboration of libraries, educational institutions, health and social service agencies, cultural, civic and religious organizations, businesses, the media, and local governments throughout Kalamazoo County.

The Kalamazoo Community Foundation helped the library launch Reading Together with funding for the first three years with grants from their Better Together initiative. Kalamazoo Public Library now provides major support for the program. Foundation grants, gifts and contributions from collaborating organizations make it possible for KPL to offer Reading Together to all of Kalamazoo County. KPL program specialist Lisa Williams coordinates the program.

About the Book Selection Process

The book selection process continued Reading Together’s tradition of democratic community participation. A large group of community members considered dozens of titles gathered from last year’s evaluation process, suggested by library patrons, staff, and community leaders, and recommended by librarians and educators.

Committee members read and discussed the suggested titles with these guidelines in mind. A good Reading Together book features:

  • an author who will come to Kalamazoo during the Reading Together period;
  • beautiful prose that fosters an appreciation of literature;
  • availability in multiple formats such as large print, audio recording, Spanish;
  • reading level, vocabulary, length, and subject matter that appeals to adults as well as high school and college students;
  • treatment of social issues relevant to our community.

Why Three Books?

Rick Bragg’s memoirs of home and childhood are related but not linear. They sufficiently connect so that readers could start with the newest book, The Prince of Frogtown, then move on to one of the others. Rick Bragg already has many fans in our community. Even now, more than 10 years after its publication, Shoutin’ still garners a waiting list at KPL. Here’s what readers can look forward to:

All Over But the Shoutin’

With colorful language and emotional honesty, Rick Bragg recounts a turbulent and poverty-stricken childhood in rural Alabama that gave rise to a career in journalism and a Pulitzer Prize for reporting. His book is a sensitive but never self-pitying look at the fruits of his alcoholic father’s abuse and abandonment of the family, and at his mother, who bore the brunt of the pain. 

Ava’s Man

Bragg celebrates his mama’s daddy, Charlie Bundrum, a heroic figure whose life was symbolic of a people and way of life nearly gone today from the Southern landscape. An ode to his grandfather, but also a study of the history and culture of the rural South, richly seasoned with all-but-forgotten lore and language.

The Prince of Frogtown

This completes the cycle of Rick Bragg’s stories about his childhood. Bragg was convinced the last thing he wanted was to become a father. Now married and suddenly stepfather to a young boy, Bragg looks back to move forward. Through conversations with people who knew Bragg’s father, he builds a picture of who Charles Bragg really was, searching for shreds of goodness in him. Stories about his father alternate with chapters about the developing relationship with his stepson.

About Rick Bragg

Rick Bragg 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 all three of his memoirs.

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.

Bragg received the Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing in 1996 while at The New York Times for his elegantly written stories about contemporary America. 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.

Learn more about Rick Bragg

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