Ecology of a Cracker Childhood by Janisse Ray

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Synopsis

Janisse Ray grew up in a junkyard along U.S. Highway 1 amid the hulks of old cars, stacks of blown-out tires, and primeval jumbles of rusted metal. Ecology of a Cracker Childhood tells how a childhood spent in rural isolation -- living in the country but not even knowing how to swim -- grew into a passion to save the almost vanished longleaf pine ecosystem that existed before the region was ever called the South.

This memoir about growing up on a junkyard in the ruined flatwoods of the Southeast was published by Milkweed Editions in 1999. Besides being a plea to protect and restore the glorious Southern forests, the book looks hard at family, mental illness, poverty, and fundamentalist religion.

Chapters in the book alternate between personal history and natural history, showing the two to be irrevocably intertwined. Besides being a memoir and an account of pinewoods flora and fauna, the book is a clarion call for action to save what ecologists call a "critically endangered" ecosystem. Only one percent of natural longleaf forests remain.

Essayist Wendell Berry called the book “well done and deeply moving.” Anne Raver of The New York Times said of Janisse Ray, “The forests of the South find their Rachel Carson.”

The book won the Southeastern Booksellers Award for Nonfiction 1999, an American Book Award 2000, the Southern Environmental Law Center 2000 Award for Outstanding Writing, and a Southern Book Critics Circle Award 2000.

Ecology of a Cracker Childhood was a New York Times Notable Book and in 2000 was chosen as the Book All Georgians Should Read.
 

About Janisse Ray

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Writer, naturalist, and activist Janisse Ray is a seed-saver, seed-exchanger, and seed-banker, and has gardened for twenty-five years. She is the author of several books, including The Seed Underground , Pinhook and Ecology of a Cracker Childhood , a New York Times Notable Book. Ray is on the faculty of Chatham University's low-residency MFA program, and is a Woodrow Wilson Visiting Fellow. She has won a Southern Booksellers Award for Poetry, a Southeastern Booksellers Award for Nonfiction, an American Book Award, the Southern Environmental Law Center Award for Outstanding Writing, and a Southern Book Critics Circle Award. She attempts to live a simple, sustainable life on a farm in southern Georgia with her husband, Raven Waters.
 
Published October 1, 1999 by Milkweed Editions. 285 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, Nature & Wildlife, Science & Math. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Ecology of a Cracker Childhood

Kirkus Reviews

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Ray's redemptive story of an impoverished childhood brings to mind the novels of Dorothy Allison and the nature writing of Amy Blackmarr, but the stunning voice and vision are hers alone.

May 20 2010 | Read Full Review of Ecology of a Cracker Childhood

Publishers Weekly

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In a final chapter (in which she includes appendixes on the specific endangered species of the South), Ray laments the ""daily erosion of unique folkways as our native ecosystems and all their inhabitants disappear."" What remains most memorable are the sections where Ray describes, and attempts ...

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Austin Chronicle

Her story is of the people and pines of South Georgia, a mix of nature, culture, and family history that aims to capture both "the cracker South and the longleaf South."

Mar 03 2000 | Read Full Review of Ecology of a Cracker Childhood

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