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Janisse Ray, Extended Bio


Writer, naturalist, and activist Janisse Ray is author of five books of literary nonfiction and a collection of naturepoetry. Her most recent book, The Seed Underground: A Growing Revolution to Save Food is a look at what’s happening to seeds, which is to say the future of food. The book has won the Arlene Eisenberg Award for Writing that Makes a Difference,American Horticultural Society Book Award, Nautilus Gold Book Award, Garden Writers Association Gold Award, and Green Prize for Sustainable Literature Award.

Ray is the William Kittredge Distinguished Visiting Writer at the University of Montana 2014. She holds an MFA from the University of Montana and in 2007 was awarded an honorary doctorate from Unity College in Maine.

Her first book, Ecology of a Cracker Childhood, a memoir about growing up on a junkyard in the ruined longleaf pecology-of-a-cracker-childhoodine ecosystem of the Southeast, was published by Milkweed Editions in 1999. The book won Southeastern Booksellers Award for Nonfiction 1999, American Book Award 2000, Southern Environmental Law Center 2000 Award for Outstanding Writing, and Southern Book Critics Circle Award 2000. It was a New York Times Notable Book and was chosen as the Book All Georgians Should Read. Besides a plea to protect and restore the glorious pine flatwoods, the book is a hard look at family, mental illness, poverty, and religion. Essayist Wendell Berry called the book “well done and deeply moving.” Anne Raver of The New York Times said, “The forests of the South find their Rachel Carson.”

Wild Card Quilt: Taking a Chance on Home (about rural community) was published by Milkweed Editions in early 2003. Pinhook: Finding Wholeness in a Fragmented Land (the story of a 750,000-acre wildland between south Georgia and north Florida) was published by Chelsea Green in 2005. Ray’s first book of poetry, A House of Branches, came out in 2010 from Wind Publication and won a Southern Booksellers Award for Poetry 2011. Drifting Into Darien: A Personal and Natural History of the Altamaha River–a lovesong and a call to action–was released by UGA Press in 2011.

The author has been visiting professor and writer-in-residence at many universities and colleges across the county. She has given hundreds of lectures and readings. When at home, Ray attempts to live a simple, sustainable life on Red Earth Farm in southern Georgia with her husband and daughter. Ray is an organic gardener, tender of farm animals, slow-food cook, and seed-saver. She lectures nationally and widely on nature, community, agriculture, wildness, sustainability, and the politics of wholeness.