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Customer Review

on July 13, 2003
I read Rick Bragg's book, ALL OVER BUT THE SHOUTIN' and felt uplifted and proud of my poor, rural southern heritage. AVA'S MAN did not leave me with the same pride of place and time. I was born in 1935 in rural Arkansas and picked my first cotton in my maternal grandfather's and his neighbor's fields as a four year child. Although my folks were what others have characterized as "the gentle poor" as opposed to what they characterize as "poor white trash", I worked with and alongside and lived among whole communities of folks like the Bundrums. When and where I grew up, men like Charlie Bundrum were not heroes. Chronic drunks who die early of cirrhosis with no provision for their widows and children, who were brawlers and jail birds were not a breed to be celebrated even though their children might have loved them and their grandchildren, for their own not so difficult to understand reasons, placed them on a pedestal. In the rural south of Charlie's day, fighting among children trying to find their place in the pecking order of a three room school was standard, but heroic men fought only under extreme provocation and their fights were often to the death. If there is a hero in AVA'S MAN, it is Ava, not her man. Charlie Bundrum did a little too much likkerin', brawling, drunken driving, fishing and general carousing for my taste in heroes, and casting him as one creates a model that has been followed by far too many young of the underclass of southern white male to the downfall of thousands of their families and communities. Bragg's mother was very rightly the hero of his first family memoir, and his father the heavy. I suppose he needed some male in his direct line of ancestors to carry the mantle of the hero, but Grandfather Charlie seems to provide very little cement, to go along with all the likker and sand, for the casting of the likeness of a real hero. I started reading this book fully prepared to praise it, as so many of it's reviewers have. I ended it depressed and sorry that Charlie's life was not one that I find heroic. God knows, we could use a few more of these among the poor southern white male, but it seems that most of our poor white Dixie heros have been female, and our male heroes have been, to a large extent, black. wfh
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