Book 30: Ecology of a Cracker Childhood by Janisse Ray

I have so many things to say about this book. One being that I certainly wish that I had read it when it was assigned, though I feel certain that I chose to read it at the perfect time all the same. 
Many of you may not know that I’m a Georgia native, never having lived out of state for more than five weeks. I grew up in Macon and Warner Robins, pretty much the center of the state. This book takes place in southern Georgia, though many elements rang true for all of the state. I grew up surrounded by a typical pine tree, not the stunning longleaf pines that Ray cherished so dearly; my late grandfather did talk about their scarcity with a passion almost equal to Ray’s, however. 

  
Image credit: arborday.org –A longleaf pine sketch. 


“Q: ‘You know how to tell when you’re in Georgia?’

A: ‘All the houses are on wheels and all the cars are on blocks.’”

I came from middle Georgia, an area that’s less affected by poverty than Southern Georgia. We have malls, Smoothie Kings, and infrastructure. We still have more poverty than, say, Cobb or Cherokee county. A friend visited me while I was back home for my break and marveled at the first trailer park she’d ever seen – in Georgia it’s not uncommon. 

The flora and fauna found in the pages of this book are the flora and fauna of my homeland as well. Spider lilies, muskmelon (cantaloupe more often than others), and fishing with worms on a hook all brought back childhood memories. My homeland is one riddled with a sordid past, but it’s ecology can be breathtaking. 

I also felt a kind of kinship with Ray; she felt being a southerner to be a burden, the redneck stereotype and the accent being signifiers to people out of state that you’re probably less intelligent than they are. She mentioned attempting to lose her accent when she moved away to college, and I assure you that my college friends could tell you that I did the same. My voice on a call home was night and day from my voice answering questions in an auditorium. I think I’ve always unconsciously battled with my accent. Liquor and anger bring it out more fiercely than my family can. 

Ray’s father was a complex man, and I truly enjoyed getting to know so much about him. His choice to whip his children combined with his love of nature and his tendency to help mend the broken bits of wilderness that he found showed his complexity. His resourcefulness and drive were uniquely southern. 

Mental illness is a theme that I didn’t expect coming into the book, though I definitely appreciated it. From Valium to mental hospitals, Ray laid it all out and didn’t hide it like some southern folk do.

I enjoyed the historical bits, ranging from the Celtic settlers turned crackers to the creation of grits on land where wheat wouldn’t grow well. Their arbors of scuppernong vines reminded me of the many vines my grandparents grew. The interlacing of religion, though more conservative than the baptist church I grew up in, also rang true to a southern upbringing. 

Milledgeville’s mental hospital was mentioned many a time in the book, and I think it’s worth noting that I’ve just moved to Milledgeville myself. I’ll be attending GCSU starting in a couple of weeks. Ray also mentions McRae Georgia, a town my grandfather discussed frequently (MAC-Rey as he pronounced it) in terms of his childhood. 

I think my favorite things about this book are the setting being so beautifully woven in, the fact that it’s nonfiction, and the constancy with which Ray intertwined themes of gender and ecology. It’s a feminist read for many reasons, but definitely for its ecological perspective on gender. 

My least favorite element was the little blurb about how “the south will rise again,” but in an ecological sense. I’m not keen on the phrasing, or the Dixie phrasing she used. Let’s put that to rest and leave it. 

Ray’s book was required reading for my Ecofeminism class, and as a result was sitting unread on my Kindle these two years later. I still have a few books left to read, and I’m looking forward to it. 

Now I’m craving my Nana’s fried squash and fried cornbread and some of my aunt Peggy’s ten-fifteen layer cake. 

I give the book a 9/10.

Happy reading, Scarlett 

Ps; I apologize for the formatting issues. I won’t have wifi until the ninth, so I’m blogging from the app. 

Advertisements

I won another giveaway, and why I’ve been MIA. 

Good evening folk, 

I’m excited to say that I moved in to my very own tiny apartment today! It’s the perfect size, and it’s a bit shabby having been built in the 80’s, and I love it. My kitties are doing well in their new home, and I’m only disappointed in the AC (it’s terrible and I’m hot natured and it’s 100 outside ok?). 

Anyway; I’m about 30% into my latest book, and I’ve got a happy trick up my sleeve to work on for a future review. I also just won another Goodreads giveaway!

   
 

I’ve already sent it to my kindle, so it’s up soon on my list!  (And yes, I’m charging my phone). 

 
I won’t have wifi for about two weeks according to the schedule at Charter, so I’m expecting to get a lot of reading done soon here. 

I’m one book behind schedule according to Goodreads, but I’ll know it out soon enough. 

Update

Hey readers,
I feel pretty rough that I haven’t posted anything in awhile, but I haven’t had much reading time (as it turns out, camping is quite involved). 

I’m heading off on a mission trip with a pretty cool church in Armuchee, so I’ve got my books packed, and we’ll see if I find the time to read! 

I’ve also made a new goal; I have almost a whole shelf full of books to read. I don’t need any new books. I have an excess. I’ve decided not to spend any money on books for the rest of the year, aside from textbooks and required reading for school. I need to power through dozens on the shelf at home. If I happen upon free books, win Goodreads giveaways, etc. I’ll get books that way, but I need to be a bit better with my money as a student. 

Expect me to keep reviewing and posting! I’ll be back around soon enough. 

My Giveaway Book Came In! 

I just got my two chapbooks from Black Lawrence Press yesterday….

  
and today I got my copy of I’m Supposed to Protect You From All This from the Goodreads giveaway (hosted by Riverhead Books)! 
   

  I even got a cute little letter with the book, which made me quite happy indeed! 
I’ll be reviewing all three ASAP. I’m taking Spiegelman’s with me this weekend on my first camping trip (ever). 

Exciting Things

 I’m deep in Season four of OITNB because it’s pretty amazing, so I don’t have a review ready for you yet. I will say, I’m loving Maxine Hong Kingston’s Woman Warrior so far. 

 
Also, LOOK WHAT CAME IN THE MAIL! I’m so excited to read it next. 

I’ll be giving a totally honest review, worry not about freebies etc. clouding my judgement. 

  

Book 19: Slounching Toward Nirvana by Charles Bukowski 

I liked what I knew of Bukowski in high school, granted at the time I had no exposure to feminism and no inkling as to what slut-shaming was (I was too busy calling all of the mean girls -who dated the guys who were emotionally and mentally abusing me instead of dating me- whores to realize that it was a gross habit caused by misplaced rage and internalized misogyny). 
I decided to give this book another shot,due mainly to my interest in poetry (obviously). Three poems in I’ve got Bukowski describing bar fights in front of whores, and I’m not sure if I’m down with this book. I picked it up in high school and never got around to reading it, though I frequently stumbled upon Bukowski poems randomly dispersed around the Internet and occasionally liked them. 

I do enjoy his tendency to write poetry on ugly subjects; bullying, violence, other elements of humanity that aren’t often the subject of poetic writings. However, as a goodreads reviewer so adequately put it, Bukowski was “assholish as always,” and it didn’t sit well with me. 

I have to admit, I really didn’t enjoy this book at all. I rarely dread poetry (through reading this book, I can definitely see why some people do). It’s not Bukowski’s best, and I’m not his biggest fan even then. 

I give it a 4/10. 

Loss in the Family

I’m currently sitting in a hospice room, waiting for my great grandmother, Grace, to pass. (It is Monday, and I am pre-writing due to the situation.) She has been one of the biggest influences in my life from the start. I’ve lived with her off and on for my entire life, and her house has always been my permanent address (for various reasons). She’s always been a big proponent for reading and writing, and I only wish she’d had the time to write the memoir she always talked about. I ask that my followers be patient with me at this time. I may or may not be able to post on Friday depending on the chain of events. I certainly don’t feel quite up to enjoying a new book at this point. Please bear with me.