Seeking Wonders in a World beyond HumansOne woman's intentional exploration of the wild world
Looking for adventure and continuing a process of self-discovery, Janisse Ray has repeatedly set out to immerse herself in wildness, to be wild, and to learn what wildness can teach us. From overwintering with monarch butterflies in Mexico to counting birds in Belize, the stories in Wild Spectacle capture ...
Anchored firmly in two places Ray has called home—Montana and southern Georgia—the sixteen essays here span a landscape from Alaska to Central America, connecting common elements in the ecosystems of people and place. One of her abiding griefs is that she has missed the sights of explorers like Bartram, Sacagawea, and Carver: flocks of passenger pigeons, routes of wolves, herds of bison. She craves a wilder world and documents encounters that are rare in a time of disappearing habitat, declining biodiversity, and a world too slowly coming to terms with climate change.
In an age of increasingly virtual, urban life, Ray embraces the intentionality of trying to be a better person balanced with seeking out natural spectacle, abundance, and less trammeled environments. She questions what it means to travel into the wild as a woman, speculates on the impacts of ecotourism and travel in general, questions assumptions about eating from the land, and appeals to future generations to make substantive change.
Wild Spectacle explores our first home, the wild earth, and invites us to question its known and unknown beauties and curiosities.
Praise for Wild Spectacle
“Think about epiphany. Think about change. Think about the moments that make your face burn, your fingers tingle. Wild Spectacle is about those shocks, encounters that shift the way we see the world and ourselves in it. Ray is the vortex around which everything spins.” — Joni Tevis, author of The World Is on Fire: Scrap, Treasure, and Songs of Apocalypse
“Wonderful. Janisse Ray has a heart the size of a manatee and the tenacity (and laugh) of a pileated woodpecker. She is incapable of not loving this world and all that is in it. If you don’t yet know her work, today is your lucky day.” — Rick Bass, author of For a Little While: New and Selected Stories
”Curious, humble, bright, and compelling. Whenever I read Janisse Ray, I come away feeling both moved and fortunate. She is one of America’s best chroniclers of spiritual and physical wilderness. Her prose is as gorgeous as her mind is wise, and lands a necessary punch: how should a human enter a wild place?” — Megan Mayhew Bergman, author of Almost Famous Women
“These seductive and diverse essays evoke wildness themselves, weaving narratives of community, love, and heroism. Ray writes with the heart of a poet and warrior, casting a spell that leaves us wanting to love and protect all that is wild. She urges us to remember what beauty there is in the world, and how much that world needs us.” — Sheryl St. Germain, author of Fifty Miles
“Ray’s richness of observation, clarity of expression, and moral purpose are in such balance that this book hums like a gyroscope in your hands. Read and reread it again to savor the scenes and sentences.” — Melissa Fay Greene, author of No Biking in the House without a Helmet: 9 Kids, 3 Continents, 2 Parents, 1 Family
“An urgent love letter to our wild places. Part poet, naturalist, and tour guide, Ray is a gifted observer. We finish this remarkable book brimming with gratitude and alive to the wild spectacles around us.” — Beth Ann Fennelly, author of Heating and Cooling: 52 Micro-Memoirs
“Here is Janisse Ray at her best—fully immersed in wilderness, immersed in friendship, immersed in parenthood. She engages with the world in a way that few can manage in this screened-off age. If there’s a more open, honest, and appealing writer today, I’ve not met her.” — Bill McKibben, author Wandering Home: A Long Walk across America’s Most Hopeful Landscape
“Wild Spectacle is a stirring book. To experience the truth of Thoreau’s claim that wildness preserves the world, take these journeys with Janisse Ray. She is an exhilarating observer who explores untamed places where that shaping, animating energy is on vivid display.” — Scott Russell Sanders, author of The Way of Imagination
“Janisse Ray’s sense of wonder in the presence of the natural world permeates this collection of essays on how to love the Earth and measure the value of a life surrounded by the mother we all share. These essays help us measure the value of life.” — Pam Houston, author of Deep Creek: Finding Hope in the High Country
"Seriously great. In its brilliantly detailed celebrations of geography, Janisse Ray's writing suggests Walt Whitman. Hers is a literary ambition that makes no pretenses to modesty." — Franklin Burroughs, author of Billy Watson’s Croker Sack
"Janisse Ray doesn’t explore nature so much as remind us of what we have forgotten... She is our Rachel Carson and our Walt Whitman, both fierce prophet and loving courage teacher." — Mark Powell, author Lioness
Praise for Ecology of a Cracker Childhood
"Painfully and powerfully told.... Ray's passion for preserving and restoring this unsung landscape is heartfelt and refreshing." — Tony Horowitz, New York Times
"The forests of the southeast find their Rachel Carson . . . . In Ecology of a Cracker Childhood, part memoir, part clarion call to save the longleaf pine, she casts a loving but unflinching eye on growing up poor and fundamentalist in southeast Georgia.” — Anne Raver, New York Times
"A gutsy, wholly original memoir of ragged grace and raw beauty...Ray’s redemptive story of an impoverished childhood brings to mind the novels of Dorothy Allison and the nature writing of Amy Blackmarr, but the stunning voice and vision are hers alone." — Kirkus Reviews (STARRED)
"Ray's writing is at its best when she recalls her most harrowing memories, such as when her father gave her and her two brothers a whipping after they stood by and watched a friend kill a turtle. These scenes resonate during the interpolated naturalist chapters, which evoke the calm of the landscape and give readers a respite from the anger and pain that drive much of the family narrative. In a final chapter (in which she includes appendixes on the specific endangered species of the South), Ray laments the 'daily erosion of unique folkways as our native ecosystems and all their inhabitants disappear.' What remains most memorable are the sections where Ray describes, and attempts to prevent, her own disconnection from the Georgia landscape." — Publishers Weekly
"Ray’s paean to the filth, rot, shit, and rust of her childhood on a Georgia junkyard. Half memoir, half polemic, Cracker Childhood is both a recollection of how Ray came to understand the natural world’s value and beauty, and an impassioned explanation of why the longleaf pine ecosystems of southeast Georgia, Alabama, and Florida must be defended against any further assault by humanity." — Grist
Praise for Wild Card Quilt
"Ray celebrates the richness of the natural world and the comforts of family. — Publishers Weekly
Praise for Pinhook
"Her moving book is a tribute to a small but crucial wild place and a call for readers to help preserve it and others like it." — Publishers Weekly
Praise for The Seed Underground
"An enchanting narrative...Even couch potatoes will be enthralled by Ray’s intimate, poetically conversational stories of her encounters with the 'lovely, whimsical, and soulful things [that] happen in a garden, leaving a gardener giddy.'"— Publishers Weekly
- Jordan Literary Prize