Writer, naturalist, and activist Janisse Ray is the author of six books, including the widely acclaimed memoirs Ecology of a Cracker Childhood and Wild Card Quilt. Her work has been widely taught and anthologized, and has received an American Book Award, a Southern Book Critics Circle Award, a Southern Booksellers Award, and many others. She holds an MFA from the University of Montana and has been awarded two honorary doctorates, one from Unity College in Maine and the other from LaGrange College in Georgia. In 2015, Ray was inducted into the Georgia Writers Hall of Fame. She lives in rural southern Georgia and continues to teach and lecture widely.
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Books by Janisse Ray
Author Q & A
In the “about the author” in your book Ecology of a Cracker Childhood, it says that you “left your home of Baxley, GA to go to college and did not return for several years.” What kept you away? What brought you back?
I was away for 17 years, if I’m counting correctly. I never intended to go back. But the more I read about “place” and “sense of place,” and the more I thought about it, the more I began to enjoy the idea of returning. If all the best & brightest young people leave a place, what kind of doom does it spell for it? The diaspora of our young artists & thinkers leave behind a kind of cultural poverty in rural America, one that matches the economic poverty. I guess you can say I never really got south Georgia out of my bones, & finally I realized that, and I went home. No place I’ve ever lived really felt like home to me.
What is your writing practice? When you sit down to write, what does it look like?
Early morning, a small, warm, & wood-filled office. A desk in a corner. Staring at the wall. Sheets of action verbs on the wall in front of me. Sometimes a sheet of paper & sometimes a computer. Two hours ahead of me. Or, it looks like me & my journal, hanging out in the hammock on the side porch, where our old dog is sleeping. Watching titmice in the crepe myrtle, crows crossing the pastures. Watching the cows graze. Trying to say what needs to be said.