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Ecology of a Cracker Childhood: 15th Anniversary Edition
by Janisse Ray

Published: 2015-11-24
Paperback : 294 pages
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”A gutsy, wholly original memoir of ragged grace and raw beauty.”
?Kirkus Reviews (STARRED)


From the memories of a childhood marked by extreme poverty, mental illness, and restrictive fundamentalist Christian rules, Janisse Ray crafted a memoir that has inspired thousands to embrace ...
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Introduction

”A gutsy, wholly original memoir of ragged grace and raw beauty.”
?Kirkus Reviews (STARRED)


From the memories of a childhood marked by extreme poverty, mental illness, and restrictive fundamentalist Christian rules, Janisse Ray crafted a memoir that has inspired thousands to embrace their beginnings, no matter how humble, and fight for the places they love. This edition, published on the fifteenth anniversary of the original publication, updates and contextualizes the story for a new generation and a wider audience desperately searching for stories of empowerment and hope.

Janisse Ray grew up in a junkyard along U.S. Highway 1, hidden from Florida-bound travelers by hulks of old cars. In language at once colloquial, elegiac, and informative, Ray redeems her home and her people, while also cataloging the source of her childhood hope: the Edenic longleaf pine forests, where orchids grow amid wiregrass at the feet of widely spaced, lofty trees. Today, the forests exist in fragments, cherished and threatened, and the South of her youth is gradually being overtaken by golf courses and suburban development. A contemporary classic, Ecology of a Cracker Childhood is a clarion call to protect the cultures and ecologies of every childhood.

Editorial 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

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by sweetwilliam (see profile) 06/19/17

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