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A Journey of Identity, Healing, and Wonder

by Jonathan T. Bailey


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. Finding solace and connection in wild places, Jonathan T. Bailey lived two lives—one of trauma, the other of wonder. In When I Was Red Clay, he navigates self–discovery, grief, and the loss of faith with unflinching honesty and biting humor.

September 2022| Nonfiction | 978-1-948814-63-8| 200 pp | $16.95 


“In Bailey’s profoundly moving memoir, the diversity of creation illuminates the inner landscape and inspires healing—and wonder. The past is a gift, Bailey says, and this brave journey into the intimate wilderness is another gift. With the clarity and fresh eyes of meditation, we visit the topography of bones, the meaning of the natural world, and the centering of spirit within ourselves, within community, and in our footsteps and vision. In the true meaning of the word: this book is awesome.”
GEORGE K. ILSLEY, author of The Home Stretch

"Utah’s Emery County maps hard ideological boundaries over some of the harshest landscapes of the arid West. Even so, the stratified cliffs, seeping recesses, and crustal sinks testify of lush and various inhabitations, eon upon eon. Utterly here, Bailey confines us to a temporal body untenable and ecstatic, hypersensitized to the play of surface and interior, opacity and revelation, hostility and intimacy. This kind of writing can only emerge from the awful beauty of always-yet-never Home.” 
KARIN ANDERSON, author of Before Us Like a Land of Dreams

When I Was Red Clay is honest as acid and proof that nature can provide.”


“Touching on current events and topics, from conservation and immigration to suicide and autism, Bailey has penned a thought-provoking memoir. The wilderness of deserts in Utah and Arizona are their own characters . . . Readers will find hope and peace on these beautifully written pages.”

LIBRARY JOURNAL (starred review)


“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.” 


“Bailey’s evocative, candid memoir explores spirituality, heritage, and the lives and landscapes we choose to inhabit. Offering hope to disenfranchised LGBTQ+ youth through its testament of self-acceptance and recovery, When I Was Red Clay also stresses the need to find new and ‘open-armed communities’ when old worlds are no longer sustainable.”

When I Was Red Clay is an homage to the western desert country, a place that can be ‘unimaginably bewitching.’ I haven’t read something so beautiful in a long time. I can’t stop thinking about it.” 


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JONATHAN T. BAILEY is a conservation photographer with a background in cultural resources. Author of the literary memoir When I Was Red Clay: A Journey of Identity, Healing, and Wonder and the photograph and essay collection Rock Art: A Vision of a Vanishing Cultural Landscape, his work has been published in Archaeology Southwest, the Salt Lake Tribune, Indian Country Today, and elsewhere. He lives in Tucson, Arizona.


Author Website

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