Terry Tempest Williams

by Katey Parrott

Terry Tempest Williams

Born: September 8, 1955 in Corona California

Lived through “The Day We Bombed Utah” as a child. Seeing the connection between the bombing area and rise in cancer patients sparked her passion for environmental writing, which led to her to believe the bombing also exposed her family to cancer. Terry’s grandmother, mother, six of her aunts had mastectomies done, and her grandfather and brother even died of cancer.  She goes in depth about her family history in her book Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place.

In her writings, she mostly focuses on the changing environment, people changing because of the shifting environment. She is an advocate of preserving wildlife; she is currently the Annie Clark Scholar in Environmental Humanities at the University of Utah. She has served on the Governing Council of the Wilderness society, and was on the western team for the President council for Sustainable Development.

It is also said when Bill Clinton declared the new Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument he held up Testimony: Writers of the West Speak on Behalf of Utah Wilderness and said, “This made a Difference.”  She personally edited the book composing of twenty writers she asked to state their case on why wildlife mattered.

She currently lives in Wilson, Wyoming and Castle Valley, Utah with her husband.


            “I believe every woman should own at least one pair of red shoes.”-Refuge

“Finding beauty in a broken world is creating beauty in the world we find.”

“The Eyes of the Future are looking back at us and they are praying for us to see beyond our own time.” –Red

“Our kinship with Earth must be maintained; otherwise, we will find ourselves trapped  in the center of our own paved-over souls with no way out.”-Finding Beauty in a Broken     World

The Clan of One-Breasted Women:  “The price of    obedience has become too high”

“The evidence is buried”


  • Robert Marshall Award-Wilderness Society (2006)
  • Distinguished Achievement Award-Western American Literature Association
  • Wallace Stanger Award-Center of American West
  • Lannan Literary Fellowship
  • John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship
  • National Wildlife Federation Conservation award for special achievements


  • Finding Beauty in a Broken World (2008)
  • Illuminated Desert (2008)
  • The Open Space Of Democracy (2004)
  • Red: Passion and Patience in the Desert (2001)
  • Leap (2000)
  • New Genesis: A Mormon Reader on Land and Community (1998)
  • Writers of the West Speak on Behalf of Utah Wilderness (1996)
  • Great and Peculiar Beauty: A Utah Centennial Reader (1995)
  • Desert Quartet: An Erotic Landscape (1995)
  • An Unspoken Hunger: Stories from the Field (1994)
  • Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place (1991)
  • Coyotes Canyon (1989)
  • Between Cattails  (1985)
  • Pieces of White Shell: A Journey to Navajoland (1984)
  • Secret Language of Snow (1984)




Discussion Questions:

  1. Although the majority of Williams family was sick and she knew the key reason for it she still stayed in Utah. Do you think she would have moved if she had children?
  2. She talked of women in her dream passing the nuclear test line into the town of Mercury, do you think this dream inspired her to cross the line too?

Works Cited

Barclay Agency, Steven. “Terry Tempest Williams :: The Steven Barclay Agency.”  Steven Barclay Agency. 2009. Web. 21 Apr. 2011. <http://www.barclayagency.com/williams.html&gt;.

Bunton, Simmons. “Interview with Terry Tempest Williams : Terrain.org.” Terrain.org: A Journal of the Built & Natural Environments : Issue No. 27 : Entropy. 2010. Web. 21 Apr. 2011. <http://www.terrain.org/interview/17/&gt;.

Reporter, Book. “Author Profile: Terry Tempest Williams.” Bookreporter.com. 2002. Web. 21 Apr. 2011. <http://www.bookreporter.com/authors/au-williams-terry-tempest.asp&gt;.

Tempest, Terry. Terry Tempest Williams: Coyote Clan. 11 Apr. 2001. Web. 21 Apr. 2011. <http://www.coyoteclan.com/&gt;.


About envirolit

Professor of Environmental Literature
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