Monday, February 15, 2010

Books By Theme: The Not-So-Sunny Side of Florida

sunset over the ocean 
Photo: vgm8383


When I think of the Sunshine State, images like the one above inevitably come to mind, along with idyllic memories of the Magic Kingdom. Not far behind, however, are the not quite so pretty descriptions of Florida evoked by writers such as Zora Neale Hurston and Carl Hiaasen. Following are a sampling of books that look past Florida's theme parks and beaches to a deeper understanding to the state's past and present.


Their Eyes were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston book cover
First published in 1937, Their Eyes Were Watching God is African American writer Zora Neale Hurston's most esteemed novel. It focuses on Janie Crawford, a beautiful thrice-married black woman seeking love and empowerment in the racist, sexist world of 1930s central Florida. Janie finally finds the right man in Vergible "Tea Cake" Woods, but a catastrophic hurricane sets off a series of fateful events that doom the couple.


Unquestionably Florida's most popular writer today, Carl Hiaasen has the enviable ability to deal withNative Tongue, the scheming owner of an ecologically challenged theme park in North Key Largo stirs up an array of activist opposition, including the author's greatest creation, recurring character Clinton Tyree, a.k.a. Skink, a half-insane former governor who lives in the woods in a junked car and eats road kill.
serious issues in an entertaining and inventive manner. In one of his best novels,


One of Florida's most intriguing real-life murder cases occurred in
1910 when an ornery, red-bearded man named Ed Watson was shot to death vigilante-style by his Everglades neighbors, who believed him to be a serial killer. Peter Matthiessen recounts Watson's life, death, and alleged crimes in three remarkable novels that combine historical fact and creative conjecture, beginning with Killing Mr. Watson.


Lay that trumpet in our hands by Susan McCarthy book cover
Susan Carol McCarthy's first novel, Lay That Trumpet In Our Hands, draws on her Florida childhood. Triggered by the racially charged murder of a black orange grove worker in 1951, the plot centers on a white family's determined stand against hatred and bigotry in a Ku Klux Klan–dominated community in central Florida. The narrator, young Reesa McMahon, exhibits a poignant blend of innocence, courage, fear, and maturity; cameo appearances by historical figures such as Thurgood Marshall and Harry T. Moore (Florida's first civil rights martyr) enhance the book's power.



~  For more themed book lists, check out Listless by One Librarian's Book Reviews and Listed by Once Upon a Bookshelf ~

6 comments:

April said...

I have Lay That Trumpet In Our Hands on my TBR shelf! And some Carl Hiassan. Oy. I should get a move on with those books.

Also, wish I was in warm Florida instead of cold NY!

Cleverly Inked said...

The last one looks great. I grew up in central FL. A lot of the KKK is still there. Sad to say.


Hehe I still love FL even with it's faults

Kristi said...

How interesting! I'm a Central Florida girl, so it's good to be pointed in the direction of things close to home.

brichtabooks said...

I love the idea of books by theme. What a gorgeous picture of Florida too! I have only read "Their Eyes Were Watching God" out of this list, but the others sound interesting as well.

Veens said...

I have one book by Carl, that I am yet to read!
That pic of Florida is gorgeous!

Eva said...

What a neat list! The only one I've read is the Hurston; it was excellent. :)

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