66 pages 2 hours read

Rick Bragg

All Over but the Shoutin'

Nonfiction | Autobiography / Memoir | Adult | Published in 1997

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Summary and Study Guide


This book is a memoir written by a Pulitzer Prize winning reporter, Rick Bragg, who works for the New York Times. It describes the author’s childhood in rural Alabama,   the middle child of three brothers raised by an almost-always single mother in conditions of extreme poverty. His father was a veteran of the Korean War and an alcoholic, who abandoned his family for long periods of time.

The book is dedicated “To my Momma and my brothers.” The author grows up with a strong mother who keeps her family together through very hard times. He manages to escape the poverty that grips his family and his neighbors by becoming a reporter.

Rick leaves home in order to pursue his career, but he is always connected to his roots. He becomes a successful journalist, at the top of his profession, but what he really wants is to buy his mother the house she could never afford. When the author is able finally to buy his mother a home and lift her out of poverty and shame, he fulfills his most important goal in life.

Part 1, “THE WIDOW’S MITE”, includes fifteen chapters on the author’s childhood and adolescence. In these chapters, Bragg describes in detail what life was like for him and his brothers and mother with a violent, alcoholic father who was mostly absent. His mother worked beside other “white trash” and blacks picking cotton by hand to supplement welfare payments and minimal support from her family. Bragg’s family survived in large part by living with his grandmother Abigail in a house owned by an uncle.

Bragg and his brothers drove his mother crazy with a typical Southern working class mixture of fighting, sports, hunting, and fast cars.

Part 2, “LIES TO MY MOTHER”, chronicles Bragg’s development as a writer, as he moves from covering local sports to becoming a reporter for papers in Alabama. Next he moved to St. Petersburg and Miami in Florida. With the move came bigger stories and a larger reputation. Ultimately this led to his dream job with the New York Times. Bragg came to specialize in what he and his colleagues called “misery” stories. He covered murders, riots, and the unbelievable atrocities in Haiti. 

Part 3, “GETTING EVEN WITH LIFE”, finds Bragg returning to the South as a national correspondent for the New York Times. He travels again to witness more horrors in Haiti, wins the Pulitzer Prize, and buys his mother that house.