44 pages • 1 hour readRick Bragg
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“I used to stand amazed and watch the redbirds fight. They would flash and flutter like scraps of burning rags through a sky unbelievably blue, swirling soaring, plummeting. On the ground they were a blur of feathers stabbing for each other’s eyes...Once, when I was little, I watched one of the birds attack its own image in the side mirror of a truck...It was as if the bird hated what it saw there, and discovered too late all it was seeing was itself” (xi).
The author starts his narrative about growing up poor in the South with this image. The birds appeared to fight each other and even an image of themselves for no reason other than a sort of deep hatred for themselves and others. The author imagines that the people he grew up with, both in his family and his broader community, were like these violent birds. They were powerless against a socioeconomic system that exploited them, so they fought with each other with great intensity.
Bragg knew that his mother had always longed for a house that would be a real home, a safe and warm place for herself and her family, a refuge from the harsh reality of being poor.
By Rick Bragg