Wild Card Quilt: The Ecology of Home

  • ISBN13: 9781571312785
  • Condition: NEW
  • Notes: Brand New from Publisher. No Remainder Mark.
Product Description
Seventeen years after she’d left home “for good,” Janisse Ray pointed her truck away from Montana and back to the small southern town where she was born. Wild Card Quilt is the story, by turns hilarious, heartbreaking, and ambitious, of the adventures of returning home. For Ray, it is a story of linking the ecology of people with the ecology of place — of recovering lost traditions as she works to restore the fractured ecosystem of her native South. Her story is f… More >>

Price: $7.00



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5 Responses to “Wild Card Quilt: The Ecology of Home”

  1. Jan Allyn says:

    “Somebody, I thought, has to fight to protect the ravaged places. If a place loses the ones who care, the ones who can make a difference, what kind of doom does that spell? If the Southerners who love the wild leave the South, well, what happens then?”

    –Janisse Ray, in Wild Card Quilt

    Sadly, the answer to Janisse Ray’s earnest question can be seen all over, and not just in the South. Too often, “what happens” is rampant, fragmented, inadequately planned development, communities without community, places devoid of a sense of place. Her new book Wild Card Quilt chronicles her return to homeplace Baxley, Georgia, to reestablish family connections and create a sustainable life for herself and her son Silas. Her “experiment in rural community” is largely successful. That it is so is due to Ray herself. A less outgoing, less imaginative, less self-sufficient person would likely find a hamlet like Baxley too isolated, its often-parochial attitudes suffocating. Indeed, Ray does battle feelings of loneliness and futility, and these she shares eloquently. But more often she is hopeful, ardently forging associations with people who share her ideals, creating friendships that restore her sense of purpose and connectedness. She joins with other Baxley residents to save their small school, participates in the creation of a watchdog organization to protect the Altamaha River, advocates for the preservation of Moody Swamp, an ancient, old-growth forest of cypress and longleaf pine, and joins with several other aspiring authors to form a writers’ group.

    In all her endeavors, Ray adopts a stalwart but cooperative stance with those she seeks to persuade. She is nonjudgmental, preferring to inspire and connect, rather than to scold. This is an approach we should emulate in our own efforts to promote habitat conservation and restoration. However convinced we are of our own rectitude, we must not alienate people by being ideologically rigid or unnecessarily confrontational.

    Central to the book is the notion that building human connections is not only important for our emotional health as individuals, but that these ties strengthen our communities and make them better, stronger, more pleasant places to live. The bonds we form in working on community projects helps us individually, as well as helping society collectively. I know this has been true for me, as I count as invaluable the opportunities for fellowship provided by my volunteer activities.

    The gravity of these themes is lightened by Ray’s obvious joy in life’s simple pleasures, in the earth’s natural beauty and wild creatures, and in her sweet and entertaining descriptions of the ways and characters of Baxley, like her chain-smoking, church-going Uncle Percy, and the stubbornly self-reliant photographer E.D. McCool, who lives in a bus and tootles around town on a riding lawnmower. She relates her experiences at a pork cook-off, a syrup-boiling, the local Martin Luther King Parade, and a night-time gator hunt with good humor that is often self-deprecating. The result is a book that is heartwarming and uplifting, especially to those who love nature and want to preserve it.
    Rating: 5 / 5

  2. If Janisse Ray’s first memoir, “Ecology of a Cracker Childhood,” is an evocative reclamation of a treasured Southern ecological system, her sequel, “Wild Card Quilt” emerges as a moving, inspiring and passionate attempt to reclaim her adult life. Ray’s poetic prose is part autobiography, part self-identification with place and part manifesto. Her writing soars with exquisite metaphor and astounding revelation. She is unapologetic in her defense of the longleaf pine ecosystem and convincing in her appeals for Americans to redefine the very nature of our national character. “Wild Card Quilt” required courage to write, and Ray more than met the challenge. Years from now, she will be recognized as instrumental to late twentieth-century ecology as Rachel Carson was some half-century earlier.

    After having fled her restrictive and repressive childhood home in rural Georgia, Ray discovers herself adrift and alienated as an adult. A single mother of an inquisitive and sensitive son, her spiritual restlessness compels her to return to her grandmother’s isolated shotgun cabin and reclaim her life. In so doing, she rediscovers her fervent, but latent, identification with the disappearing longleaf pine forests of the Southeast. As she had in “Cracker Childhood,” Ray provides masterful descriptions of this endangered ecology, lavishing as much love on the richly interdependent plant and animal life as she does on the family and community with which she interlaces herself in Baxley, Georgia.

    Firmly linking herself with those social critics of American life who decry our culture’s obsession with consumption and lack of identification with nature, Ray agrees with Paul Gruchow’s conclusion that “we raise our most capable rural children…to expect that as soon as possible they will leave.” Against this diaspora, Ray launches numerous campaigns, not only to preserve the ecology of her home, but the social structure groaning under the pressures of eradication in the name of jobs, progress and consumption.

    As moving as her political polemics are, Ray reserves her best writing in portraying her people. Likening her family to homemade pure cane syrup, Ray surmises, “It’s sweetness that keeps people together. Sweetness. The sweetness of our tongues, of kind words, of praise.” But not only that. It is also the “sweetness, too, of acts of imagination and love.” Quiet, nearly invisible kin earn her respect. Her reclusive uncle Percy, “not a man to reach out…or…demand much from life,” through Ray’s characterization, gains enormous dignity from his modesty. Percy, who excels at attending church and mowing the lawn, is as “extreme in his quiescence as Hemingway had been in his ardor to eat life’s marrow.” Content to allow life to come to him, “Percy nibbled at the crust.”

    From her mother, whose labors produce the quilt which gives the memoir its title, arises a sense of beauty that fits with Ray’s defense of rural life. Her mother’s quilts originate from “necessity, using rags and torn clothes.” To Ray, “the need for usefulness…produces objects of the greatest beauty.” The adult Ray has a kinder, more forgiving understanding of her father’s psychology. Never giving in to his rigidity, she forgives him, and in so doing, opens the door for his reconciliation with Ray’s oldest sister, with whom he had been estranged for nearly two decades.

    Towering above everything in “Wild Card Quilt” is Janisse Ray’s unabashed sense of hope. This infectious optimism, infused with deep conviction and enormous compassion, may align itself with our nation’s longstanding sense of hope and vision. As the author becomes increasingly integrated in her Baxley environment, as she becomes ever more passionate in her advocacy for the longleaf pine forests, as she plants her own taproot deep in the fertile soils of family love and community solidarity, she outlines not only a personal blueprint of redemption, but a national one as well.
    Rating: 5 / 5

  3. Wild Card Quilt is a follow-up to Ecology of a Cracker Childhood in which the author builds on prior relationships and revisits childhood from the perspective of an adult. She honors her parents without agreeing with them and is apparently honored and respected in return. Some old disagreements persist!

    While raising her son as single parent she lives a life of simplicity. Home she finds has values differing from those she has developed.

    Her love and appreciation for the vanishing habitats of south Georgia propel her to activism. Her deep seated need to write forms new diverse relationships.

    Enjoying things she loves leads to romance and fulfillment in an unexpected place.

    Come stroll the long leaf pine forest with Janisse Ray.
    Rating: 4 / 5

  4. Sonya Conner says:

    Excellent,,,took you home and if you weren’t from there you went with your imagination….
    Rating: 5 / 5

  5. Kathleen says:

    I love the Deep South and I love reading regional biographies and memoirs of people who have spent their lives there. This book is really, really good. But ya know what? Readers should really start with her first book which is titled: ECOLOGY OF A CRACKER CHILDHOOD, because it truly enhances one’s reading of WILD CARD QUILT.

    Rating: 5 / 5

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