When I was red clay A journey of identity, healing, and wonder

Jonathan T. Bailey, 1995-

Book - 2022

"This intimate record lays bare one person's experience growing up in a rural Mormon community and struggling to reconcile his sexual orientation with the religious doctrine of his childhood. Weaving together prose, poetry, and stories scrawled on the margins of high school notebooks, Jonathan T. Bailey encounters truth-seeing owls, anachronistic gourds, and the hard-edged realities of family and church. In When I Was Red Clay, he navigates desert landscapes, mental health, and the loss of faith with unflinching honesty and biting humor."--

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Location Call Number   Status
2nd Floor 289.3092/Bailey Due Apr 24, 2024
Salt Lake City ; Torrey : Torrey House Press 2022.
Main Author
Jonathan T. Bailey, 1995- (author)
First Torrey House Press edition
Physical Description
xiv, 157 pages ; 21 cm
Includes bibliographical references (pages 154-157).
  • Author's Note
  • Foreword
  • Testimony
  • Procession of Trees
  • Journal Entry: May 9, 2019
  • They
  • Burnice
  • Blood Moon
  • Journal Entry, Undated
  • Song Dog
  • Fox
  • An Evening with Tyto Alba
  • They Take Our Bodies
  • Memorial
  • Solitude's Double Helix
  • Journal Entry: March 2011
  • The Letters I Never Wrote
  • Pandemic Reflections
  • June 26, 2015
  • January 24, 2021
  • House of Aquilegia
  • Turquoise Messengers
  • Double-Headed Passerine
  • Journal Entry: January 16, 2021
  • Time Travelers
  • Time Travelers of a Different Eukaryote
  • Writing to Reconcile
  • Down The Colorado
  • January 1, 2010
  • Juniper Roots
  • Journal Entry: September 3, 2020
  • Daydreaming
  • Mussentuchit Badlands
  • A Personal Topography of Hue and Color
  • Walking to the Underworld
  • Market Sojourn
  • Uncomfortable
  • Beneath, Beneath
  • Death
  • High Deserts
  • Ruth
  • Buhle
  • Afterword
  • Acknowledgments
  • Works Cited
  • Further Reading and Resources
  • About the Author
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Conservation photographer Bailey (Rock Art) contends with his troubled Mormon upbringing and relationship to the natural world in this meditative memoir composed of journal entries, essays, and poems. The author, who was shunned by his community and family for being gay, recalls painful memories of a 1990s childhood in which classmates intimidated him with concealed weapons and physical assaults. At home, Bailey found little refuge living with an anorexic mother and a father who demanded that Bailey renounce his sexuality or be punished eternally. In lyrical odes to the natural beauty of the southwestern deserts, Bailey details his turn to nature for respite with an emphasis on the ancient rock art he encountered in his explorations. He also, however, draws facile connections between his Mormon ancestors' experience to that of contemporary undocumented Mexican migrants crossing the militarized U.S. border ("Our feet were burned red under these same soils... for the same sense of safety sought by migrants entering this country today"), often leading his reflections on freedom and religious identity to ring hollow. Though some fragments struggle to cohere, Bailey's moving testament of resilience is sure to satisfy readers of nature writing and autobiography alike. Fans of Terry Tempest Williams and Robin Wall Kimmerer should take note. (Aug.)

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Review by Library Journal Review

Bailey, a gay ex-Mormon and advocate for conservation and climate control, weaves a beautiful tapestry of dignity and respect for mankind and nature in his memoir. When Bailey left the LDS Church, he did not find God in the wilderness. He found something much more powerful: the majesty of nature and its ability to provide peace many people never discover. Touching on current events and topics, from conservation and immigration to suicide and autism, Bailey has penned a thought-provoking memoir. Questioning his sexuality, his faith, and whether peace and disorder can coexist, Bailey seeks to find healing and connection and takes readers on his intimate journey. With a narrative told through free verse, prose, journal entries, and love letters, this is one man's attempt to reconcile childhood traumas through the presence of spirit found in nature. The wilderness of deserts in Utah and Arizona are their own characters in this beautiful book. This immersive experience is one part travel guide and guidebook to native plants and one part exploration of kinship between the human spirit and the Earth. VERDICT Readers will find hope and peace on these beautifully written pages.--Alana R. Quarles

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