The quilt is a central image and metaphor in Janisse Ray’s second book, Wild Card Quilt: The Ecology of Home (The World as Home—Milkweek Editions, 2003). The making of a quilt is a way in which Ray rebuilds and restores relations with her family, especially her mother. A quilt also signifies the patchwork of land that Ray and others work to protect so that there can be a corridor of open passage from Georgia into Florida that allows flora and fauna to move freely and to evolve.
While her first book mostly concerned her family and its past, this second book describes her move back to Georgia with her son Seth to set up and try to run a farm on the small plot of land that her maternal grandmother left behind after her death.
Ray makes clear that she moves back to Georgia to try to rebuild her life, to achieve what she describes as wholeness. It’s clear that there are painful events from her past that she does not describe. She builds interest around these events without ever actually mentioning them. They must have to do with her experience living in Montana, where she attended graduate school, and with her first marriage, which produced her son. One senses both a sort of ragged fragility in Ray’s approach to the world as well as considerable strength and courage.
In each of her books, Ray becomes a better writer, a more accomplished prose stylist. She writes precisely yet lyrically. Passionate commitment to her subject is always evident, along with her identity as a naturalist, not only a lover of nature but an informed expert on history and wildlife and plant life of the South Georgia area.