Thursday, January 22, 2015

Finding Florida by T.D. Allman


Finding Florida: The True History of the Sunshine State
by T. D. Allman
narrated by James Patrick Cronin
Audible Studios, 2013
21 hours and 8 minutes
source: purchased

Summary (from goodreads):
Over the centuries, Florida has been many things: an unconquered realm protected by geography, a wilderness that ruined Spanish conquistadors, “god’s waiting room,” and a place to start over. Depopulated after the extermination of its original native population, today it’s home to 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.

In Finding Florida, journalist T.D. Allman reclaims the remarkable history of Florida from the state’s mythologizers, apologists, and boosters. Allman traces the discovery, exploration, and settlement of Florida, its transformation from a swamp to “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.

My thoughts:

So maybe Ponce de Leon didn't really discover the Fountain of Youth in St Augustine but, according to T.D. Allman, most of the other history taught in Florida classrooms is white-washed, exaggerated, or just plain myth too. Instead, Allman proposes a history rife with corruption, deception, oppression, and racism.

I found Finding Florida to be highly entertaining, but is it a definitive, comprehensive, or objective history? I'm not so sure. This book is highly subjective and, at times, downright snarky. Upon finishing, I felt like I needed to spend some time doing my own research.

For the record, Allman's book is not accepted as gospel truth within the state and The Tampa Bay Times ran a story in 2013 entitled "Finding Flaws in Finding Florida".

As many of you know, I chose to listen to this book because we are spending much of the winter in Florida this year and I know very little about the state's history. While Florida's story certainly includes racism and political/electoral misadventures, it is up to the reader to decide whether the information presented here is fact, opinion, or one long rant.

A note on the audio production:
I was not especially fond of the snarky, somewhat sarcastic, narration although it did match the overall tone of the book.

My rating:

18 comments:

  1. I lived in Ft Myers Florida for 14 years, 1973-1987, before I moved to Australia. It was a very different place in 1973 and the 1950's when my grandparents stayed in their caravan in Zephy Hills every year. I visited last year and the amount of building and people surprised me again as I barely recognised the place. This book sounds interesting but I wish it was verified more. I don't like reading things as gospel if they are not. But never the less the history of Florida is fascinating.

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    1. Pam - We are in the Ft. Myers area now (Sanibel). The population in the area has definitely increased and along with that comes all the development. I did enjoy the book, but wish I'd had more of a background in state history.

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  2. This sounds entertaining but I'm not sure I'd want to read an inaccurate account like that.

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    1. Kathy - I think he is working on a second edition with some corrections and modifications.

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  3. I admit I've never been esp. drawn to Florida but it must have a fascinating history. It sounds like this was disappointing - I'm sorry for that. I've been reading (not very studiously...) some Boston history and finding it fascinating, so I understand the impulse to want to read about the place where you (sometimes) live. :)

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    1. Audrey - In many ways, the history reminds me of the 'Wild West"... very colorful!

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  4. I've been interested in Florida's history because I have family there and we've spent a lot of time there but this one doesn't sound like it's for me. I don't like having to figure out what is fact and what is opinionated interpretation. Have you read Tony Horwitz's A Voyage Long and Strange? It has a lot of FL history that I found fascinating.

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    1. Katherine - I have not read Tony Horwitz, but would like to. His book Blue Latitudes is on my shelf and A Voyage Long and Strange sounds fascinating.

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  5. This is probably fun to read just for the snarkiness and entertainment. It is nice to have some historical facts questioned, but since the overall sentiment after reading the book is more of a doubtful nature, I guess we should just take them with a pinch of salt.

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    1. Athira - This was fun to read, but now I need to research...

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  6. I actually did buy this book recently. I know so very little about my state, except it's dysfunction on a day to day basis! It bothers me that things might be misconstrued in here, but I guess I will keep that in mind when it read it.

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    1. Sandy - He's not off base about everything, but folks are angry with some of the glaring mistakes... which I, of course, have no clue about. Will be curious to hear your take.

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  7. Thanks for your candid remarks JoAnn. Fla. is surely a dynamic state. I lived there for a few years and traveled through on several trips to Disney. I'm sure you will love and learn more as your time there continues.

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    1. Pat - I hope so... Florida is an interesting place, really more like several states than a single big one.

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  8. Hm. Florida is such an intersting state and somewhat snarky seems like it may match the dysfunction?

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  9. If nothing else, it's always good to read something that gets you interested in learning more.

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    1. Lisa - Definitely! And I think he's on the right track with this, but it's probably a little overblown and embellished.

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