Finding Florida: The True History of the Sunshine State

Finding Florida: The True History of the Sunshine State

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by T. D. Allman
     
 

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Over its long history, Florida has been many things: a native realm protected by geography; a wilderness that ruined Spanish conquistadors; a place to start over; "god's waiting room." With a native population as high as 900,000 (who all died), it became a pestilential backwater with a few thousand inhabitants, but today is our fourth most populous state, with… See more details below

Overview


Over its long history, Florida has been many things: a native realm protected by geography; a wilderness that ruined Spanish conquistadors; a place to start over; "god's waiting room." With a native population as high as 900,000 (who all died), it became a pestilential backwater with a few thousand inhabitants, but today is our fourth most populous state, with nineteen million. The site of vicious racial violence, including massacres, slavery, and the roll-back of Reconstruction, Florida is now one of our most diverse states, a dynamic multicultural place with an essential role in 21st century America.

However, the remarkable story of Florida has been distorted and whitewashed. In Finding Florida: The True History of the Sunshine State, journalist T.D. Allman reclaims this remarkable history from the mythologizers, apologists, and boosters.

Allman traces the discovery, exploration, and settlement of Florida, its transformation from a swamp to a paradise. Palm Beach, Key West, Miami, Tampa, and Orlando boomed, fortunes were won and lost, land was stolen and flipped, and millions arrived.

The product of a decade of research and writing, Finding Florida is a highly original, stylish, and masterful work, the first modern comprehensive history of this fascinating place.

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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review - Alexandra Starr
Finding Florida is a cross between a corrective history and a passionate jeremiad, offered up as a call to arms…a take-no-prisoners account of an influential corner of the country.
Library Journal
Allman (former foreign correspondent, Vanity Fair; Miami: City of the Future) must have walked barefoot across a hot South Florida asphalt parking lot when he got the idea for Finding Florida. As the author outlines the history and image of the state from the 1500s to 2012, he criticizes all popular icons of Florida history: Ponce de Leon, Henry Flagler, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, Walt Disney, and Carl Hiaasen. Allman's premise is that the popular history and popular culture of Florida are fictional, owing to promoters who did not consider the consequences of what they did to publicize this "paradise." He outlines "fascinating real-life human dramas no one could invent" such as the myth of the fountain of youth. He states that Rawlings's (The Yearling) contributions to American literature are an irrelevancy, and he labels Hiaasen as a shameless writer who makes lots of money by sneering at Florida. VERDICT Allman, a native Floridian, works to correct historical myths about his home state and pokes a hot stick at those who have made their money by perpetuating those myths. Recommended to all readers interested in Florida's history; this title will surely stimulate discussion about how popular presentations of Florida history are based primarily on attracting the tourist dollar.—Joyce Sparrow, Kenneth City, FL
Kirkus Reviews
A rich and lively history of Florida, minus the Disney gloss. "To find the real Florida you…must tear up the picture postcards! Get rid of the plumed conquistadors and Confederate cavaliers!" writes veteran journalist and native Floridian Allman (Rogue State: America at War with the World, 2004, etc.). In this colorful, sometimes angry account, he shatters five centuries of mythmaking to tell the real story of a soggy, inhospitable place with few resources, whose most memorable events are often fabrications and whose real history has been hidden by boosters and historians. Ponce de León did not discover Florida. Nor was he searching for the legendary Fountain of Youth, popularized by Washington Irving. But the courtier Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, since airbrushed out of history, did secure Florida for Spain in 1565, slaughtering Frenchmen near St. Augustine. In 1816, on Gen. Andrew Jackson's orders, Americans committed "one of the worst massacres in American history," killing hundreds of civilians in the Indian, black, and mixed-race community known as Negro Fort, now the Fort Gadsden Historic Recreation Center. A turning point in the U.S. acquisition of Florida, the massacre was followed by years of inhumane policies toward Indians and blacks. The author lambasts the work of historians who have whitewashed Florida's unseemly moments in the apparent belief that people do not like to be reminded of unpleasant things. Much of his gripping narrative focuses on key figures like Seminole resistance leader Osceola, who later became a celebrity Indian chief; industrialist Henry Flagler, one of the indefatigable promoters who made waterlogged land seem like real estate; and go-getter Walter P. Fraser, who turned St. Augustine into a travel destination and precursor of Florida theme parks. A splendid rendering of the messy human story of our fourth-most populous state.
From the Publisher

“A take-no-prisoners account . . . extremely timely and relevant.”—New York Times Book Review

“Gripping.”—Salon.com

“A magisterial rip at the state’s invaders, conquerors and rulers.”—Orlando Magazine

“A rich and lively history of Florida, minus the Disney gloss . . . [Allman] shatters five centuries of mythmaking to tell the real story. . . . A splendid rendering of the messy human story of our fourth-most populous state.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"Allman’s engaging, eye-opening, and heavily researched history of Florida spans half a millennium, from the myth of Ponce de León’s Fountain of Youth to the 2012 shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, and it is a fulsome cavalcade of would-be conquistadors, epically corrupt and racist politicians, and oligarch wannabes."—Booklist

"An immense and important work."—Bookforum

"I loved Allman's extraordinary book. . . . Almost every county in Florida bears the name of a butcher, a slavedriver, a madman, a scoundrel or a thief, in a state where for half a millennium the governing mandate seems to be Defeat the Truth, Triumph over Reality. T.D. Allman's counter-narrative to all the pretty lies is a scouring hurricane of research, investigation, and soul-cleansing wrath, and I doubt there has ever been a better, or more important, book written about the Sunshine State, the birthplace of imperial hubris, American-style."—Bob Shacochis, author of The Immaculate Invasion and The Woman Who Lost Her Soul

"Equal parts social analysis, historical review, and jeremiad, Finding Florida is a passionate, often scathing, and remarkably comprehensive encounter with a confounding, contradictory, and ever-elusive place. If your idea of hell is being chained to a galley oar between a politician and a Chamber of Commerce exec, then you are likely to love this book."—Les Standiford, author of Last Train to Paradise

“Manuscripts repeatedly find their way into print that ignore the reality of Florida’s past and, in so doing, skew our understanding of what Florida has been, what it is now, what it’s likely to become, and what that means for everyone. T. D. Allman’s book turns all that on its head. It directly challenges the existing historiography with highly intelligent insight and crafting of narrative in a way that permits the reader to immerse himself in a world far from the expected one. Finding Florida is provocative to the point of daring. Thomas Jefferson claimed a little revolution was needed about every twenty years. Florida and its historiography is long overdue for one.”—Canter Brown, Jr., Professor of History, Fort Valley State University

“An extraordinary tome . . . Finding Florida offers a history lesson that is long overdue."—Birmingham Times

“For the general reader, Finding Florida is a catalyst for hearty discussions and more reading.”—Authentic Florida

Finding Florida is fascinating, comprehensive, and accessible to the non-specialist reader. While Allman covers an enormous amount of material—taking Florida from uninhabited swampland to the sidewalk culture of South Beach—he does so in such engaging ways that the reader is never overwhelmed. Indeed, each chapter is in itself a satisfying and illuminating narrative, stock full of vivid characters. Somehow he has managed to pull together a compelling read without sacrificing historical substance, a feat to which many professional historians aspire. His wry voice conveys a point of view that gently pushes readers to understand Florida as an American synecdoche.”—Glenda Gilmore, Peter V. and C. Vann Woodward Professor of History, Yale University

“Allman provides connections between events, trends, individuals, cultures, geography and geology that all worked to shape Florida’s past and our future. But the real reason to pick up this book is that it’s a ripping good read; with its fast pace, wry humor, polished prose, and compelling story, I just could not put it down.”—Thomas Van Lent, senior scientist at the Everglades Foundation

“[From] a raconteur of rare qualities . . . [one] of the fiercest and most prescient nonfiction books written about the Sunshine State in the past 40 years.”—Palm Beach Arts Paper

Finding Florida is a must-read for any Florida resident who is interested in the state’s history.”—EU Jacksonville Magazine

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780802120762
Publisher:
Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
Publication date:
03/05/2013
Pages:
528
Product dimensions:
6.48(w) x 9.08(h) x 1.75(d)

What People are saying about this

"Equal parts social analysis, historical review, and jeremiad, Finding Florida is a passionate, often scathing, and remarkably comprehensive encounter with a confounding, contradictory, and ever-elusive place. If your idea of hell is being chained to a galley oar between a politician and a Chamber of Commerce exec, then you are likely to love this book." —Les Standiford, author of Last Train to Paradise

“Manuscripts repeatedly find their way into print that ignore the reality of Florida’s past and, in so doing, skew our understanding of what Florida has been, what it is now, what it’s likely to become, and what that means for everyone. T. D. Allman’s book turns all that on its head. It directly challenges the existing historiography with highly intelligent insight and crafting of narrative in a way that permits the reader to immerse himself in a world far from the expected one. Finding Florida is provocative to the point of daring. Thomas Jefferson claimed a little revolution was needed about every twenty years. Florida and its historiography is long overdue for one.” —Canter Brown, Jr., Professor of History, Fort Valley State University

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