Writer, naturalist and activist Janisse Ray is author of three books of literary nonfiction.
Ecology of a Cracker Childhood, a memoir about growing up on a junkyard in the ruined longleaf pine ecosystem of the Southeast, was published by Milkweed Editions in 1999. Besides being a plea to protect and restore the glorious pine flatwoods of the South, the book looks hard at family, mental illness, poverty, and fundamentalist religion. Thinker 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.”
Ray’s second book, Wild Card Quilt: Taking a Chance on Home, about rural community, was published by Milkweed Editions in early 2003.
The third, Pinhook: Finding Wholeness in a Fragmented Land, the story of a 750,000-acre wildland corridor between south Georgia and north Florida, was published by Chelsea Green in 2005.
Ray has won a Southeastern Booksellers Award 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 was chosen as the Book All Georgians Should Read.
Ray produced In One Place: The Natural History of a Georgia Farmer by Milton Hopkins, out in 2001. She co-edited, with Susan Cerulean and Laura Newton, Between Two Rivers: Stories from the Red Hills to the Gulf (2004). In 2007 Ray started a small press, Wildfire, in order to publish Southern nature writing; an anthology of local stories about a Georgia preserve, Moody Forest, is recently out.
Ray’s essays appear in the anthologies American Crisis, Southern Solutions; A Road Runs Through It; Where We Stand: Voices of Southern Dissent; Elemental South; The Roadless Yaak; Where the Mountain Stands Alone; and The Norton Anthology of Nature Writing, among others. She has published in such periodicals as Audubon, Gray’s Sporting Journal, Hope, Natural History, Oprah Magazine, Orion, Sierra and The Washington Post.She writes poetry and fiction as well as nonfiction, as has been a radio commentator for Vermont and Georgia public radio.
She has been visiting professor at Coastal Carolina University, scholar-in-residence at Florida Gulf Coast University, and writer-in-residence at Keene State College and Green Mountain College. She was the John and Renee Grisham writer-in-residence 2003-04 at the University of Mississippi. She holds an MFA from the University of Montana, and in 2007 was awarded an honorary doctorate from Unity College in Maine.
In 2008 she is on the faculty of Chatham University’s low-residency MFA program. She will also teach at Wildbranch Writing Workshop, and Unity College’s workshop for teachers, “Education in a Changing Climate.” She is a Woodrow Wilson Visiting Fellow.
The author lectures widely on nature, community, organic agriculture, native plants, sustainability and the politics of wholeness. As an organizer and activist, she works to create sustainable communities, local food systems, a stable global climate, intact ecosystems, clean rivers, life-enhancing economies, and participatory democracy. She is a founding board member of Altamaha Riverkeeper and is on the board of the Environmental Leadership Center of Warren Wilson College and Satilla Riverkeeper.
Ray attempts to live a simple, sustainable life on a family farm in southern Georgia with her husband, Raven Waters. She has a college-age son, Silas. She is a gardener, tender of farm animals, hospice and Red Cross volunteer, slow-food cook, and a beginning filmmaker. She does yoga and trapeze, and is collaborating with aerialist Susan Murphy of Canopy Studio in Athens, Georgia on a spring 2008 show called “Water Body.”
Her current writing projects include a collection of poetry, weekly columns on the environment, revisions on a novel, and work on a nonfiction book about how Americans live.