Eight Generations of Swamp Lawyers, Conquistadors, Confederate Daughters, Banana Republicans, and Other Florida Wildlife
Acclaimed journalist and NPR commentator Diane Roberts has many family secrets and she's ready to tell them. Like the time her cousin state Senator Luther Tucker wrapped his Caddy around a tree, allegedly with a jug of moonshine on the seat next to him. Or how cousin Susan Branford was given an African girl for her eighth birthday. Or the time when cousin Enid Broward was made the May Queen of 1907, even though her daddy the governor shocked the state by trying to drain the entire Everglades. Roberts' ancestors helped settle Florida, kill off its pesky Indians, enslave some of its inhabitants, clear its forests, lay its train tracks, and pave its roads, all the time weaving themselves into the very fabric of this dangling chad of a state.
With a storyteller's talent for setting great scenes, Roberts lays out the sweeping history of eight geberations of Browards and Bradfords, Tuckers anf Robertses, even as she Forest Gumps them into situations with more historically familiar names. Whether it's the American court of Catherine de Médicis, the Tallahassee court of Katherine Harris, Henry Flagler's boardroom -- not to mention his bedroom -- or Jeb Bush's statehouse, you're likely to find a branch or a root of the Roberts family growing entangled nearby.
Starting in the recent past with the botched presidential election of 2000, Roberts introduces the many sides of the debate, coincidentally peopled with cousins both kissing and close. She then goes back to Florida's first inhabitants, showing how this alluring peninsula many called a paradise played a role in the destiny of those who settled there. Following their colorful progress up to the present, she renders them all with a deep, familial affection.
Florida has forced itself into the collective American unconscious with its messed-up elections, anthrax scares, shark attacks,boat lifts, snowbirds, and the Bush dynasty. While exposing the real people whom Carl Hiaasen and Elmore Leonard have been fictionalizing for years, Dream State ultimately reveals the cogs and wheels that make the state tick.
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The story I was told, the story all Florida schoolchildren were once told, was that Juan Ponce de León came to Florida to find the Fountain of Youth. Maybe Spain was full of geriatric conquistadores, looking for a place to unfreeze their old bones and heat up their blood once more. This made sense to us. Florida was full of old people wearing shorts in fierce gum-ball colors, old people on golf carts, old people with burnt sienna tans and parasoled cocktails and fifty-dollar manicures, all trying to feel less old. It was as if Florida were some kind of American reward: Live most of your life... see more