Janisse Ray Ecology of a Cracker Childhood

ISBN 13: 9781571312341

Ecology of a Cracker Childhood

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Chronicles the author's childhood in the rural forests of Georgia, her fundamentalist upbringing, and her battle to save the longleaf pine ecosystem of Florida and Georgia.

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Review:

The scrubby forests of southern Georgia, dotting a landscape of low hills and swampy bottoms, are not what many people would consider to be exalted country, the sort of place to inspire lyrical considerations of nature and culture. Yet that is just what essayist Janisse Ray delivers in her memorable debut, a memoir of life in a part of America that roads and towns have passed by, a land settled by hardscrabble Scots herders who wanted nothing more than to be left alone, and who bear the derogatory epithet "cracker" with quiet pride.

Ray grew up in a junkyard outside what had been longleaf pine forest, an ecosystem that has nearly disappeared in the American South through excessive logging. Her family had little money, but that was not important; they more than made up for material want through unabashed love and a passion for learning, values that underlie every turn of Ray's narrative. She finds beauty in weeds and puddles, celebrates the ways of tortoises and woodpeckers, and argues powerfully for the virtues of establishing a connection with one's native ground.

"I carry the landscape inside like an ache," Ray writes. Her evocations of fog-enshrouded woods and old ways of living are not without pain for all that has been lost--but full of hope as well for what can be saved. --Gregory McNamee

About the Author:

A native of the coastal plains of southern Georgia, author Janisse Ray grew up in a junkyard. Her book, "Ecology of a Cracker Childhood" (Milkweed 1999), a unique combination of memoir and natural history, captures two Souths--the cracker south and the longleaf south--both vanishing and both worthy of remembrance.

A naturalist and environmental activist, Ray has participated in The Orion Society's Forgotten Language Tour. She has published essays and poems in magazines and newspapers such as "Georgia Wildlife", "Orion", "Wild Earth", "Tallahassee Democrat", "Missoula Independent", "Florida Wildlife", "Hope", and "Florida Naturalist". Ray is a regular contributor to Peach State Public Radio.

Ray's chapbook of poetry "Naming the Unseen" won the 1996 Merriam-Frontier Award from the University of Montana, where she earned a graduate degree in creative writing. She has also been the recipient of an Academy of American Poets' College Prize Honorable Mention, a Writers Conferences & Festivals Nonfiction Award, a first place prize in the Camas Nature Writing Contest, and a first place prize in the Snake Nation Review Poetry Competition, among others.

Ray currently lives in a farmhouse in Baxley, Georgia, with her son.

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Janisse Ray
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