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FRIDAY

One night, drunk on grain alcohol and crazy with pride, Rick Bragg’s great-granddaddy Jimmy Jim Bundrum bit off a man’s finger. Bundrum’s wife took the gory stub from the mantel where her husband had left it and flung it into the yard, where it was snapped up by a starving chicken. Bragg, a Pulitzer Prize-winning correspondent for the New York Times, grew up in a family with a rich oral tradition. His widely acclaimed 1998 memoir of his mother’s childhood in the Appalachian foothills, All Over but the Shoutin’, introduced readers to her parents, Ava and Charlie. But for Bragg, that work was only the beginning of a long, personal search for his family’s story. In his new book, Ava’s Man, Bragg traces the Bundrum line up to its venerated patriarch, Charlie, a roofer and small-time bootlegger who moved his family 21 times along the Coosa River, trying to outrun the hard times of the Depression. “I do not think I have ever had so much fun,” Bragg writes, “as I have had in learning and sharing the stories of a man that history would otherwise have ignored, as it would have ignored my mother and people like her.” Bragg’s previous work has been criticized for romanticizing the poverty of his people, but the beauty in the lives of Charlie and Ava grows up in the spaces between the knife fights, arrests, and stillborn babies. It lives in the weird way that they sing songs at each other while they fight, songs that their grandchildren know the words to even now. Bragg reads at 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 7, at Politics and Prose, 5015 Connecticut Ave. NW. Free. (202) 364-1919. (Shauna Miller)