There really is no place like Florida and never has been since the days of the Ais Indians. Here are a few quotes and a partial list of books that have inspired my writing that you may be less familiar with. Writing about Florida starts in the 16th Century and goes on from there.
"The wild part of Florida is really wild. The tame part is really tame. Both, though, are always in flux . . . Nothing seems hard or permanent; everything is always changing or washing away."
Susan Orlean, The Orchid Thief
“I remember the very day that I became colored. Up to my thirteenth year I lived in the little Negro town of Eatonville, Florida. It is exclusively a colored town. The only white people I knew passed through the town going to or coming from Orlando. The native whites rode dusty horses, the Northern tourists chugged down the sandy village road in automobiles. The town knew the Southerners and never stopped cane chewing when they passed. But the Northerners were something else again. They were peered at cautiously from behind curtains by the timid. The more venturesome would come out on the porch to watch them go past and got just as much pleasure out of the tourists as the tourists got out of the village.”
Zora Neale Hurston, “How it Feels to Be Colored Me"
"The fact is, that people cannot come to heartily like Florida till they accept certain deficiencies as the necessary shadow to certain excellences."
Harriet Beecher Stowe, from Palmetto Leaves
“The Florida Reader. Visions of Paradise 1530 to the Present.”Eds.: Maurice O’Sullivan and Jack C. Lane. Pineapple Press, 1991. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
“Old South, New South, or Down South? Florida and the Modern Civil Rights Movement.” Ed.: Irwin D.S. Winsboro. West Virginina University Press, 2009. An excellent collection of essays on the legacy of racism in Florida. Included are essays on violence such “as debt peonage, convict labor and convict lease systems, race riots, and Florida’s leading the nation in the rate of per capita lynchings for a number of decades.”
“Palmetto Country.” By Stetson Kennedy. Florida A & M University Press, 1942, 1989. With an Appreciation from Woody Guthrie. Between 1937 and 1942, Kennedy headed the Florida Writers’ Project on folklore, oral history, and ethnic studies, traveling around the state gathering stories. A classic.
“Ecology of A Cracker Childhood. “By Janisse Ray. Milkweed Editions, 1999. Ray is a naturalist and environmentalist who says, “The landscape I was born to, that owns my body” is southern Georgia and where she now lives in northern Florida, both originally home to the endangered longleaf pine. She alternates memoir and ecology about this unique ecosystem.
“Florida’s Living Beaches. A Guide for the Curious Beachcomber.” By Blair and Dawn Witherington. Pineapple Press, 2007. A wonderful guide. Not meant to be comprehensive but full of great info. Did you know that a seabean is a fruit or seed that has made a sea voyage and that seabean season on Florida beaches is September to March? The section titled “The Hand of Man” tells about the roll-on deodorant balls on beaches world-wide.
“The Wild Heart of Florida. Florida Writers on Florida’s Wildlands.” Eds: Jeff Ripple and Susan Cerulean. University Press of Florida, 1999. Perhaps you’ve never seen this Florida?
“A History of Florida.” By Charlton W. Tebeau and William Marina. University of Miami Press, 1999. Beyond St. Augustine and alligators. The basic story with a whole lot of details.
“Florida’s Space Coast. The Impact of NASA on the Sunshine State.” William Barnaby Faherty. University of Florida Press, 2002. A personal favorite.