In this compilation of magazine columns from Southern Living and Garden & Gun, Rick Bragg continues to weave chicken-fried stories of his life in the South. Best known for his extraordinary memoir All Over but the Shoutin’ and his Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times journalism, Bragg’s voice is as rich as ever as he finds fresh ways of telling stories both hilarious and poignant.
Where I Come From is a series of vignettes—little jewels on family, faith, food and Fords. Bragg’s Alabama roots especially shine through when he writes about his family, and oh how we love hearing about his family. On the trials of finding a gift for his mother, he writes, “I got her a classic, two-tone blue 1956 Chevrolet. She used it as a greenhouse. I got her a house. It had too many lightbulbs. I got her another. The driveway is too steep. I got her false teeth. She spit them out in the weeds, just outside Pell City, Alabama.”
But Bragg balances the quaint by dipping his toe into current events—something he has typically shied away from in his writing. In a chapter called "The Best of Who We Are," he reckons with the ugliness that remains as our nation grapples with its racist roots. “I grew up in an everyday racism; the Confederate flag license plates that rode on the front bumpers of our pickups hurt others like a thumb in the eye,” he writes. “It took me a while to get it, but it came to me, even as a boy. I do not need a statue or flag to know that I am Southern. I can taste it in the food, feel it in my heart, and hear it in the language of my kin.”
In lighter, more mouthwatering chapters, Bragg reveals himself to be a heck of a food writer. His description of a po’boy sandwich (“shrimp are cooked in butter and spices, then stuffed into hollowed-out bread and drenched in the buttery liquid from the skillet”) had me wishing I could hop a plane to New Orleans. Alas, such a trip is not in the cards, but it was hard to feel too sorry for myself when I was immediately laughing at his next line: “If I were a sandwich, I think I would be a po'boy, overstuffed, a little sloppy, relatively cheap, and bad for you.”
Where I Come From is vintage Bragg: comforting, thought-provoking and as heartfelt as it gets.