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A journey beyond fears and stereotypes
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.