A journey beyond fears and stereotypes
"The Thing about Florida will change your mind about the Sunshine State.”—Salon
“Gillespie’s portraits . . . don’t stop at the news-bite surface. . . . His writing is witty, but never mean; he’s looking for the human beings behind the headlines, and he finds them.”—Tampa Bay Times
“A personalized, amusing book about what makes the Sunshine State so unique.”—Foreword Reviews
“The collected interviews and observations give us some insight, perspective and, even better, welcome levity and wit.”—Orlando Weekly
“Add this to your Florida books list.”—Book Riot
“Gillespie writes about the Florida that only locals know: messy, humid, chaotic, and deeply human. Ripe with history, packed with fascinating information about the interior of the state, The Thing about Florida is a personal look at a profoundly misunderstood place. A necessary read.”—Kristen Arnett, author of Mostly Dead Things
“In this engaging, humorous, compassionate, and meticulous portrait, ‘the flamingo in the coal mine’ of America emerges as a gorgeously complex character, itself full of characters. In Gillespie’s eyes, we have a kaleidoscopic view of one of our strangest, wildest, and most beloved places.”—Sarah Gerard, author of Sunshine State: Essays and True Love
“Gillespie’s writing is fabulous, but his sharp-eyed observations about what it means to be a Florida man born and bred are even better. His book is hilarious, candid, and insightful, a great addition to the growing body of lit Florida literature.”—Craig Pittman, author of Oh, Florida! How America’s Weirdest State Influences the Rest of the Country
“Here we find deft reportage guided by a poet’s love of language, disarming interviews conducted alongside moments of deep personal insight and reflection. Gillespie invites the reader to join him in a far-flung, heartfelt dive into the Florida we think we love, think we hate, but may not really know as well as we thought.”—Julie Marie Wade, author of Just an Ordinary Woman Breathing
“Gillespie takes you along for the ride on his Florida adventures, making you think about the Sunshine State in ways many people don’t.”—Cathy Salustri, author of Backroads of Paradise: A Journey to Rediscover Old Florida
The memes. “Because Florida” jokes. “Florida Man” stories. Tyler Gillespie was once embarrassed to call Florida home, concocting fantasies he’d been born somewhere else. In The Thing about Florida, Gillespie faces his Florida denial and takes readers on an exuberant search for the state behind the caricatures, cutting through the media storm with curiosity and humor.
Gillespie’s journey leads him into unexpected places such as halfway houses, gator pits, rattlesnake rooms, and clothing-optional campgrounds, where he meets eclectic and unconventional Floridians. He interviews storm chasers, Civil War reenactors, cattle ranchers, drag queens, python hunters, and pet smugglers. His conversations delve into serious issues such as addiction, Florida’s racist past, and care options for the state’s LGBTQ senior citizens.
With perspective and empathy derived from his background as a gay man raised Southern Baptist, Gillespie shows how important it is to understand the diversity and complexity of Florida today. “It’s dangerous to meet our fears with fear,” he says as he confronts his own as well as the state’s monsters—invasive species, hurricanes, environmental destruction. He reminds us that Florida’s people and problems are vital parts of the nation’s future.
A fresh and engaging voice, Gillespie captivates with a snappy pace, sly wit, and crisp observations. As he weaves his childhood memories and personal experiences alongside the stories of the individuals he encounters, Gillespie reconciles with his home state. He finds Florida’s humanity, a beautiful mix of hopes, dreams, and second chances.
Tyler Gillespie, a fifth-generation Floridian, is a poet and award-winning journalist. He has written for GQ, the Guardian, the Nation, VICE, and Salon. He is the author of Florida Man: Poems and coeditor of The Awkward Phase: The Uplifting Tales of Those Weird Kids You Went to School With.
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