A collection of did-you-hear-about-the-person-who articles by a Pulitzer-winning New York Times feature reporter.
`I keep thinking,` writes Rick Bragg (All Over But the Shoutin’, 1997), `that someday I will not have to write about race, about hatred. I keep thinking that.` There are a lot of such thoughts in this anthology of the features Bragg has published over the last 13 years, primarily as Miami bureau chief for the New York Times. Alabama-raised but now Florida-based, Bragg’s journalistic territory ranges as far north as the streets and projects of Brooklyn and as far west as the plains and oilfields of Texas; Southern sense and sensibility pervades his reporting throughout, without compromising its integrity or limiting its appeal. More than half of these 64 features focus in some fashion or other upon the stories and plight of America’s least wanted: in Miami we are introduced to the Shantytown homeless (who hope for little more in the way of shelter than dry cardboard); in New Orleans we meet the children who live at the St. Thomas housing project (and are looked upon as survivors if they succeed in turning 13); and in Brooklyn we are given a brief tour of the bodegas (whose owners live in constant hope that their next customer won’t bear fatal tender). Here again are the acts once unimaginable and now seemingly commonplace, here again are the names and places that became familiar: Oklahoma City; Susan Smith; Jasper, Texas. A welcome third of the stories have lighter subjects: a sweet-tea brew-off, Cajun Christmas traditions in the Mississippi delta, and Oseola McCarthy (the washwoman who accumulated a small fortune and gave it all to the University of Alabama).
`There is a lot of sadness in this [book] because the best stories in the newspaper are those of people in trouble,` Bragg warns. Journalists, sociologists, and psychologists will find much in Bragg’s observations to consider and reconsider. Most readers will, too.