Charli O’Brien, Correspondent
On Tuesday, September 21 Rick Bragg did a reading of his newest book, “The Speckled Beauty: A Dog and His People, Lost and Found,” which had been released earlier that morning.
The event was held at the Ken and Jenny Howell auditorium in Merrill Hall. The event opened to the public at 5 p.m. and officially started at 6 p.m. with Bragg being introduced by Dr. Killingsworth and Stacy Stone. Pre-signed books were available for purchase before and after the event.
Rick Bragg is a New York Times bestselling author and a well-known journalist. He has currently written 12 books, and in 1996 he won the Pulitzer Prize for feature writing for the coverage he did of the Oklahoma City bombing.
He is a native of Jacksonville, growing up near Piedmont and briefly attending JSU before continuing on to pursue his career in journalism. He is currently a professor in the Department of Journalism and Creative Media at the University of Alabama.
This was the first reading in the JSU reading series, and Bragg seemed to be very honored to be there. During the introduction it was mentioned how it was a tradition for Bragg to come to JSU every time he published a new book, and you could see throughout the crowd how comfortable and delighted everyone was to see him there.
Bragg opened the event by dedicating his book to his brother who had recently died from COVID-19. You could see the emotion he had for his brother and how it affected him.
Bragg said that his book “will hopefully make you laugh but also make you emotional; although that was never how it originally was supposed to be.”
During the reading Bragg was sitting in a chair that “reminded him of elephants in a circus.” Bragg interacted with the audience, many who followed along in their personal copies of the book.
As he read, the emotion he had towards the book was shown through his voice. The audience laughed with him and engaged in commentary throughout the reading.
“Many people say stories make people stay alive, but I’m here to tell you that’s not true. Stories can only capture the wisdom of people,” Bragg said, after the reading.
He then took questions which he answered in depth and with sincerity. During this time the audience learned that he has a scholarship at JSU in his mother’s name through the English Department for first generation students. He considers this “one of the nicer little things” that he can do in his life.
Bragg then went on to credit his success to three things: coming from a family with the best storytellers, being around hard workers, and loving to read.
Some advice he gave to young writers was to “not be afraid” and “if you can talk you can write.” He went on to tell the audience that writing about family is very difficult, but it is very special when others show interest in the ones that you personally care about.
The event ended with Bragg apologizing for not being able to spend more time with the audience because of COVID-19 but shared that “the books have become the biggest part of [his] life.” Hopefully the next time he comes to JSU he will be able to spend more personal time with everyone.