“Nobody writes about the real Florida with as much insight and affection as Jeff Klinkenberg. His essays—spanning the length and breadth of this intoxicating, infuriating state—are pure gems.”—Carl Hiaasen, New York Times bestselling author of Razor Girl
“An authentic take on the most mysterious, confounding, and beautiful state. Klinkenberg’s gotten to the heart and soul of Florida, and the sincerity, love, and compassion that comes through in these stories kept me turning pages.”—Michael Connelly, New York Times bestselling author of The Lincoln Lawyer
“Too often this unique place finds itself the butt of a joke. In Son of Real Florida, Jeff Klinkenberg reminds us of its storied history and fascinating characters, its layers and natural wonder—and he does so with the glint of mischief in his eye. Deeply personal and often moving, rich in color and atmosphere, this collection is not just a love letter to the Sunshine State; it’s a paean to family, memories good and bad, and a life lived well in a wild, gorgeous, often misunderstood place.”—Lisa Unger, New York Times bestselling author of The Red Hunter
“A time warp and a reflecting spring, reminding Floridians to appreciate what drew so many of us here. Klinkenberg takes you to places with exotic names and special identities to meet the most interesting cast of characters ever assembled.”—Gary R. Mormino, author of Land of Sunshine, State of Dreams: A Social History of Modern Florida
“This collection takes us to the heart of real Florida.”—Janine Farver, former executive director, Florida Humanities Council
As stories about “Florida Man” inspire wild headlines in the news, Florida’s most beloved chronicler is here to show that the state is more than the stereotypes. Award-winning journalist Jeff Klinkenberg has explored what makes Florida unique for nearly half a century, and Son of Real Florida is a compelling retrospective of essays on the state he knows so well.
Klinkenberg tells what it was like growing up in pre–air conditioning Florida and becoming a newspaper reporter in mid-century Miami. He introduces us to the stout-hearted folks who have learned to live and even prosper among the insects, sharp-toothed critters, and serious heat. We meet beekeeper Harold P. Curtis and his prized orange blossom honey; frog whisperer Avalon Theisen; Sheepshead George of St. Petersburg; and Miss Martha, the oyster-shucking queen of Apalachicola.
This book also takes us to some of the most interesting, little-known places in the state. We travel to Solomon’s Castle of reclaimed materials, the neighborhood of “Rattlesnake, Florida,” and the smallest post office in the United States. Along the way, Klinkenberg stops to impart true Florida wisdom, from how to eat a Key lime pie to which writers and artists every Floridian should know.
Above all, Klinkenberg portrays Florida’s people, places, food, and culture with a deep understanding that does not relegate them to cliché. He writes with warmth and authenticity of a state he still sees as wondrous in its own ways. Though some may think the real Florida is a thing of the past, he says, “Do not tell me Florida is no longer a paradise.”
Jeff Klinkenberg wrote for the Tampa Bay Times from 1977 to 2014. He is a two-time winner of the Paul Hansell Distinguished Journalism Award, the highest honor given by the Florida Society of Newspaper Editors. He is the author of Alligators in B-Flat: Improbable Tales from the Files of Real Florida; Pilgrim in the Land of Alligators: More Stories about Real Florida; and Seasons of Real Florida.
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