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1 Burnside Americana- Southern States

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Ava's Man


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Reading Group Guide

1) In the prologue, Rick Bragg wonders about his grandfather, “What kind of man was this . . . who is so beloved, so missed, that the mere mention of his death would make [his family] cry forty-two years after he was preached into the sky?” [p. 9] How does the book answer this question? What kind of man is Charlie Bundrum? Why does his memory evoke such powerful emotions in those who knew him?

2) Bragg says that he wrote this story “for a lot of reasons,” one of which was “to give one more glimpse into a vanishing culture” [p. 13]. How does he create a vivid picture of that culture? What does he admire about it? How is it different from “the new South”? What other reasons compelled Bragg to write about a grandfather he never knew?

3) Bragg says that Charlie Bundrum was “blessed with that beautiful, selective morality that we Southerners are famous for. Even as a boy, he thought people who steal were trash, real trash. . . . Yet he saw absolutely nothing wrong with downing a full pint of likker . . . before engaging in a fistfight that sometimes required hospitalization” [p. 53]. What kind of moral code does Charlie live by? Are his frequent acts of violence justifiable? In what sense can Charlie be called a hero?

4) Charlie is a man of great physical strength and courage, but what instances of kindness, generosity, and caring balance the violence and recklessness in his life? How does the inclusion of this kind of behavior in Braggs description create a richer and fuller portrait of the man?

5) In speaking of his grandfathers legacy, Bragg says, “A man like Charlie Bundrum doesnt leave much else, not title or property, not even letters in the attic. Theres just stories, all told second- and thirdhand, as long as somebody remembers” [p. 18]. What is the value of preserving the kind of stories that Bragg gathers in Avas Man?

6) Avas Man is filled with dramatic confrontations and vivid scenes. What episodes stand out the most? What do these episodes reveal about the character of the Bundrum family?

7) In considering his grandfathers drinking, Bragg writes, “I am not trying to excuse it. He did things that he shouldnt have. I guess it takes someone who has outlived a mean drunk to appreciate a kind one” [p. 133]. What does this passage suggest about Braggs personal stake in reconnecting with his grandfather? What kind of portrait does he paint of his own father in Avas Man?

8) Charlie Bundrum “was a man who did the things more civilized men dream they could, who beat one man half to death for throwing a live snake at his son, who shot a large woman with a .410 shotgun when she tried to cut him with a butcher knife, who beat the hell out of two worrisome Georgia highway patrolmen and threw them headfirst out the front door of a beer joint called the Maple on the Hill” [p. 8]. In what ways is Charlie free from the constraints of society? What is the cost of this freedom? Is Bragg right in thinking that Charlies way of living is something that more civilized men envy?

9) Bragg writes that Ava could have had her sister Graces life, a life of relative wealth and comfort, of fine clothes, good food, and travel, instead of a life of rented houses, poverty, and hard labor in the cotton fields. “She could have hated her life,” Bragg admits [p. 153]. Why doesnt she? What does Charlie give her that other men cannot? What kind of woman is she?

10) Why does Charlie take in Hootie? What does this reveal about his character? What does Hootie bring out in Charlie?

11) Bragg writes that Charlie “could charm a bird off a wire” [p. 45]. What are the charms of Braggs own storytelling style? Where else does he use colorful similes? In what ways is his narrative voice perfectly suited to his subject matter?

12) What does Avas Man reveal about how the Great Depression affected people in the Deep South, especially those who lived in the foothills? How did it affect the Bundrums specifically? How are they treated by landlords, sheriffs, and others in positions of power?

13) For centuries, recorded history has largely been the account of those who have had the greatest impact on world events. Why is the history of a man like Charlie Bundrum important? In what ways does it offer a door into American history and culture that more conventional histories cannot provide?

14) In the epilogue, Bragg argues that when compared with the new South, Charlie Bundrum seems larger than life, because of “his complete lack of shame. He was not ashamed of his clothes, his speech, his life. He not only thrived, he gloried in it” [p. 248]. What accounts for Charlies pride? Why is Bragg so proud of him? What does Avas Man suggest about the way in which inner character is more important than external circumstances?

Product Details

Bragg, Rick
Social life and customs
Regional Subjects - South
Family/Interpersonal Memoir
United States - 20th Century/Depression
Personal Memoirs
Southern states
Southern States Social life and customs.
General Biography
Publication Date:
Grade Level:
9.52x6.48x1.08 in. 1.26 lbs.

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Related Subjects

Biography » General
History and Social Science » Americana » Southern States
History and Social Science » Journalism » Journalists

Ava's Man Used Hardcover
0 stars - 0 reviews
$6.95 In Stock
Product details 272 pages Alfred A. Knopf - English 9780375410628 Reviews:
"Review" by , ?A lovely book, with a certain gritty grandeur...This is a worthy successor to All Over but the Shoutin?.?
"Review" by , ?Rick Bragg has written a powerful and poignant book about his kin, the kind of people we hear about too seldom...At the end I shared Rick?s pride and awe of what his family had endured.?
"Review" by , "Bragg delivers, with deep affection, fierce familial pride, and keen, vivid prose that's as sharp and bone-bright as a butcher knife."
"Review" by , "In creating an indelible portrait of his grandfather, Bragg also brings alive a particular time and place, showing us just how much we've lost even as we've made 'progress.'"
"Review" by , "No one writes about the South like Bragg. He reminds readers that the fabled agrarians weren't the only Southerners, as he refuses to whitewash the bootleggers, violence, and poverty of the Depression-era rural South. Bragg's empathy and humanity shine throughout."
"Synopsis" by , The Pulitzer Prize–winning author of All Over but the Shoutin continues his personal history of the Deep South with an evocation of his mothers childhood in the Appalachian foothills during the Great Depression, and the magnificent story of the man who raised her.

Charlie Bundrum was a roofer, a carpenter, a whiskey-maker, a fisherman who knew every inch of the Coosa River, made boats out of car hoods and knew how to pack a wound with brown sugar to stop the blood. He could not read, but he asked his wife, Ava, to read him the paper every day so he would not be ignorant. He was a man who took giant steps

in rundown boots, a true hero whom history would otherwise have overlooked.

In the decade of the Great Depression, Charlie moved his family twenty-one times, keeping seven children one step ahead of the poverty and starvation that threatened them from every side. He worked at the steel mill when the steel was rolling, or for a side of bacon or a bushel of peaches when it wasnt. He paid the doctor who delivered his fourth daughter, MargaretBraggs motherwith a jar of whiskey. He understood the finer points of the law as it applied to poor people and drinking men; he was a banjo player and a buck dancer who worked off fines when life got a little sideways, and he sang when he was drunk, where other men fought or cussed. He had a talent for living.

His children revered him. When he died, cars lined the blacktop for more than a mile.

Rick Bragg has built a soaring monument to the grandfather he never knewa father who stood by his family in hard times and left a backwoods legend behindin a book that blazes with his love for his family, and for a particular stretch of dirt road along the Alabama-Georgia border. A powerfully intimate piece of American history as it was experienced by the working people of the Deep South, a glorious record of a life of character, tenacity and indomitable joy and an unforgettable tribute to a vanishing culture, Avas Man is Rick Bragg at his stunning best.

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