John Gifford is a freelance writer and photographer, and the author of seven books, including Red Dirt Country (University of Oklahoma Press, 2019) and Pecan America (University Press of Kansas, 2019). His writing credits include the Christian Science Monitor, Southwest Review, the Saturday Evening Post, U.S. News & World Report, the Atlantic, Notre Dame Magazine, American Forests, the Dallas Morning News, and the Harvard Divinity Bulletin, among others. Gifford’s literary work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and cited in The Best American Essays. His photography has appeared in magazines, journals, and newspapers across North America.
Gifford earned an MFA degree from the University of Central Oklahoma and has taught master classes on creative writing at UCO, Oklahoma City University, the University of Oklahoma, and the Oklahoma City Literary Festival. He is a graduate of the University of Oklahoma’s Department of English, where he received the Goldia Cooksey Memorial Award for creative writing.
Recent volunteer work has centered on the Florida Gulf Coast where Gifford has served in communities recovering from Hurricane Michael. He lives with his family in Oklahoma City.
About Red Dirt Country: Field Notes and Essays on Nature
From airport birdwatching and getting lost in an urban forest, to rethinking society’s ill-fated war on wildlife and our struggle to reshape the American landscape, Red Dirt Country invites readers to savor the joys of our natural surroundings. Written by Oklahoma native John Gifford, this timely book is a literary meditation on the Oklahoma landscape and the rich biodiversity of the southern Great Plains.
Inspired by such naturalists as Gilbert White, Susan Fenimore Cooper, and Henry David Thoreau, the essays in Red Dirt Country reveal the rewards of close observation and the author’s deep respect for the natural world. With his keen eye for detail, Gifford chronicles life along a suburban creek, noting from month to month the habits of the area’s birds, mammals, and trees. With particular attention, he captures the grace and majesty of that sleek raptor, the Mississippi Kite, during its yearly nesting cycle in the southern plains.
Even as Gifford extols the surprising beauty of Oklahoma, he ponders the larger environmental concerns and challenges that we face today, such as the cataclysmic wildfires and droughts threatening the American West, and modern society’s impact on vital lands and wildlife.
A compelling work of creative nonfiction, Red Dirt Country harkens back to America’s most beloved masterpieces of nature writing. At the same time, Gifford provides a distinctly contemporary reflection on today’s suburban wilderness, inspiring us all to develop a deeper connection to our natural surroundings.