The place he comes from: Rick Bragg to take part in digital Sq. Books studying – The Oxford Eagle
Author Rick Bragg, whose work many will recognize on the pages of Southern Living Magazine and Garden & Gun, will be participating in a virtual book reading and Q&A with Square Books this Wednesday at 5pm
The event, hosted through Zoom by bookseller Richard Howorth, will focus on Bragg’s latest collection of more than 60 essays, “Where I Come From”. The book is divided into sections with the following titles: “Faux Southern” and “Christmas in a Can”. It is an ode to the people, places and memories that make up the southern lifestyle.
For Bragg, the decision to publish a collection of essays during a pandemic was an easy one.
“When Knopf took it, nobody knew what was going to happen in the world. I think publishers know people want and need books now, ”said Bragg. “A book that deals with the simpler side of southern life … there’s some grit here and there, but a book that talks about what makes life down here worth living.”
Bragg said that with the pandemic outbreak, he feared that he would not be able to do one of the things he loves most as a writer: go on tour and meet readers face-to-face. Like many in the pre-Covid world, he had never heard of the now popular video conferencing software Zoom.
“When they first talked about zooming, I thought, ‘I’m 61 years old. I don’t tweet and I won’t zoom. I still don’t tweet – I mean, I’m proud of it – but I zoomed up on a storm, ”he said. “I don’t like it, but it’s the way we can keep in touch with our readers.”
Bragg made a name for himself by preserving memories of his own life and family in northern Alabama, as well as his experiences of traveling the American South, and “Where Am I From” is no different.
In one section of the book, Bragg explores what it means to be a southerner and, perhaps more importantly, what it means to be “Faux Southern”.
“It always bothered me that it would be a fashion. Obviously, Southern is a state of mind; It’s food, fashion, music, art, ”he said. “I was in a very fashionable store in the south and they were selling little bundles of cotton and t-shirts that had been dyed with red mud. And I was like, ‘My God, I can sell you 50 that are real. I could have half a million dollars in an hour and a half. ‘”
This pursuit of authenticity, to find the beauty in even the simplest scenes of the south without sacrificing the ugly truth, has made Bragg a household name across the country and around the world.
In Where I Come From, Bragg returned to stories about his family members at the foot of the Appalachians, as well as stories from his travels to cities like New Orleans and Miami.
In the New Orleans essays, Bragg writes about his time there, particularly at the Columns Hotel and various restaurants, including the Garden District legend Domilise’s. Growing poetically over the roast beef rubble and half and half po’boys came easy, he said.
“The fact is, most of the groceries I’ve made for magazines I made because someone called and said, ‘Hey, you wanna go to New Orleans and write about Po’boys?’ What are you going to say? ” he said. “Most of the food in this book – and I want readers to know – came because I said, ‘I want to go out to eat. ‘It couldn’t be more complicated. ”
While the features of the American South – its architecture, literature, music, cuisine – may seem exotic to some, Bragg said, it’s even remarkable from the inside.
However, at the center of his writing is the everyday person, said Bragg.
“I never apologized for writing about mill workers, steel workers, miners, pugilists, and honky-tonk guitar pickers,” he said. “I’ve always enjoyed giving these people a voice. I enjoyed doing that and if I’m honest it’s been most of my life. These are my people. “
In a parting word before switching to Zoom and “Where I Come From” hits stores this week, Bragg gave viewers a word of caution:
“Most of all, I want them to know that I look a lot better than I do on a zoom screen,” he said. “As for the book, I just hope they find their own story.”
To register for the event, send an email [email protected].