Writer, naturalist and activist Janisse Ray will give the Hunter Lecture at Francis Marion University Wednesday, March 28.
The speech will begin at 7:30 p.m. in the Cauthen Educational Media Center’s Lowrimore Auditorium. Admission is free and open to the public.
Prior to the speech, Ray will meet with students in FMU’s freshman English program, which adopted her book as a common text this semester.
Ray will discuss her award-winning memoir “Ecology of a Cracker Childhood” and other works that evening.
She was born on February 2, 1962, and grew up near Baxley, Ga., in rural Appling County on land that she has described as "about as ugly as a place gets." Raised in her father's junkyard, Ray was surrounded by a pop-impressionistic landscape of junkyards, wiregrass, and mobile homes adjacent to U.S. Highway 1. Living in rural isolation, she was further suppressed by an evangelical father with a religious fervor matched only by his passion for wildlife.
“Ecology of a Cracker Childhood” recalls Ray’s growing up in the junkyard in the ruined longleaf pine ecosystem of the southeast. Besides being a plea to protect and restore the pine Flatwoods of the south, the book looks hard at family, mental illness, poverty, and fundamentalist religion. It won the Southeastern Booksellers Award for Nonfiction, an American Book Award, the Southern Environmental Law Center Award for Outstanding Writing, and the Southern Book Critics Circle Award.
Other works include “Wild Card Quilt: Taking a Chance on Home”, about rural community, and “Pinhook: Finding Wholeness in a Fragmented Land”, the story of a 750,000-acre wild land corridor between South Georgia and north Florida.
She has been the John and Renee Grisham writer-in-residence at the University of Mississippi, a 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 holds an MFA from the University of Montana.
Ray has also published essays and poems in such periodicals as Audubon, Gray’s Sporting Journal, Hope, Natural History, Oprah Magazine, Orion, Sierra and The Washington Post.