Before becoming a professor of creative writing, James Barilla held a variety of posts in wildlife research and management, crossing paths with wolves and mountain lions in remote wilderness and promoting “mini-beast” habitat in urban schoolyards in England. Here, surrounded by sheep on the ancient Yorkshire moors, he began to recognize the deep and enduring influence of domestication on human existence, and the value of experiencing this kind of nature in an increasingly wired world.
James is the author of two nonfiction books that explore what it means to be human in the natural world. His latest, My Backyard Jungle: The Adventures of an Urban Wildlife Lover Who Turned His Yard into Habitat and Learned to Live with It (Yale), combines tales from his own backyard with adventures in burgeoning cities like Delhi and Rio de Janeiro, where people are trying to find ways to coexist with monkeys, bears and other wild animals in an increasingly urban world. My Backyard Jungle was recently chosen as the first year reading experience by the Urban Honors College at Portland State University in Oregon. James is also the author of West With the Rise: Fly Fishing Across America (Virginia), a story about fishing and coming to terms with starting a family through in vitro fertilization. His work has appeared in print or online in The New York Times, The Atlantic, National Geographic and Conservation as well as numerous other publications, and he has appeared on a variety of national public radio shows such as WHYY’s Radio Times and PRI’s Living on Earth.
James now teaches creative nonfiction and environmental writing in the MFA program at the University of South Carolina, where he directs the esteemed Fall Festival of Authors. He earned a PhD in English from the University of California, Davis, and an MS in Environmental Studies from the University of Montana.