Out April 13, 2021
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, venom rooms, and clothing-optional campgrounds, where he meets eclectic and unconventional Floridians who have been misrepresented in news stories. 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.
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.
“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 what’s even better in this memoir are his sharp-eyed observations about what it means to be a Florida man born and bred. 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