Originally created 04/02/02

Southern author's book resonates with readers



A particularly Southern voice infuses Janisse Ray's Ecology of a Cracker Childhood, book club participants decided at a discussion group held by The Augusta Chronicle Thursday.

The book, which details Ms. Ray's childhood in a South Georgia junkyard, is similar to stories from Appalachia but has a unique flavor, said Kitty Angleman, an Evans resident who recently moved to the area from Virginia.

"It's very similar, and yet they're different," said Mrs. Angleman, who grew up in north Florida. "I kept identifying more with this girl, because she kept describing things I've seen. When she talks about how the men in her family would take the dogs and go out hunting - my men relatives hunted that way ...

"She talked about it in a different way that made it sound more familiar to me."

Readers also found typically Southern themes - family, religion, the land, even mental illness - in the book, which details Ms. Ray's memories of her poor but proud family and her mission to save the longleaf pine, which is rapidly disappearing from the South.

"It's standard Southern literature," said Tom Sutherland of Augusta.

At the same time, it's more accessible than fiction from writers such as William Faulkner or Flannery O'Connor - there's less symbolism and obscurity to the writing, he said.

Part memoir and part ecological treatise, the book also sparked childhood memories from its readers, including the sight of pine plantations and turpentine farming, in which pine trunks are slashed and the sap collected in cans attached to the trunk.

The resonance for many readers was a goal of the Georgia Center for the Book, which chose Ecology of a Cracker Childhood to launch a project designed to get everyone in the state reading the same book. Project organizers wanted a book that would make people think and discuss what it means to be a Georgian.

The center, which is connected to the federal Library of Congress, promotes literacy and Georgia literature. Ecology of a Cracker Childhood was chosen for the Everybody Reading the Same Book project from a list of 25 books every Georgian should read, compiled by the center and available online at www.dekalb.public.lib.ga.us/gcb.

The Chronicle chose the book as its March book club selection in conjunction with the Center for the Book's project. Other reading groups in the area also are discussing the book.

The Chronicle will announce another book club selection after the Masters Tournament.

BOOK CLUB DISCUSSIONS

To participate in an electronic discussion of Ecology of a Cracker Childhood, go to augustachronicle.com/forums. The book discussion is under the Lifestyles heading at the bottom of the page. For more information, call 823-3223.

For more information about the Georgia Center for the Book, including its list of Top 25 books that every Georgian should read - including Ecology of a Cracker Childhood - visit the Web site at www.dekalb.public.lib.ga.us/gcb.

Meet the author

Author Janisse Ray will appear at the following locations, sponsored by the Georgia Center for the Book:

  • April 28: 3-5 p.m., Athens-Clarke County Library, 2026 Baxter St., Athens
  • May 13: 6:30-8:30 p.m., Chatham-Effingham-Liberty Regional Library, 2002 Bull St., Savannah
  • May 14, 3-6 p.m., Southwest Georgia Regional Library, 301 S. Monroe St., Bainbridge
  • May 16, 3-5 p.m., Chattahoochee Valley Regional Library, 1120 Bradley Drive, Columbus

    Reach Alisa DeMao at (706) 823-3223 or ademao@augustachronicle.com