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Finding Florida: The True History of the Sunshine State Hardcover – March 5, 2013

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Allman’s engaging, eye-opening, and heavily researched history of Florida spans half a milllennium, 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 politicans, and oligarch-wannabes. Allman argues that these individuals’ ideas about Florida were wildly wrong. Ponce was looking for gold in a state devoid of metals; even Presidents Jefferson, Monroe, and Madison schemed to control Florida only to learn that the place had no resources. Florida only consumes resources. “People were constantly ruining Florida; Florida ruined them right back,” he writes. The Seminole Wars, the Civil War, various massacres, Reconstruction, a second Reconstruction, Disney World, the Marielitos, voter suppression—it’s all here, and even Carl Hiaasen couldn’t make it up. This is history for the intelligent generalist, and Allman writes with style, passion, and real outrage at Florida’s odious political history. Readers will be struck by his conclusion that much of America—as Florida has long done—is abandoning verifiable facts for beliefs that are often utter nonsense. But, hey, it was sunny and 80 degrees in Florida today. --Thomas Gaughan

From Bookforum

Finding Florida is an immense and important work, an overdue survey and indictment of the Sunshine State — and the way Americans increasingly live now. —Maud Newton

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Press; First Edition edition (March 5, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802120768
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802120762
  • Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (148 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #620,880 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

49 of 56 people found the following review helpful By John Williamson TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 24, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I'll sum up my feelings on this book in three words for those who scan reviews looking for some assessment: depressing, demoralizing and disheartening.

It's quite clear that native Floridian and author T.D. Allman did extensive research in his new book Finding Florida, but for this reader, a former Florida resident for many years, it's apparent that there should have been some fact checking done before publication. Mr. Allman is well-educated author and an accomplished journalist, with years of experience under his belt, and should be quite experienced with the checking of facts.

The book starts off well, and his Prologue kicks the theme off well, with somewhat snarky mentions of Florida's unique geography, the search for gold by Spanish explorers, sinkholes, alligators and palmetto bugs (referred to as "Floridaese for giant flying cockroaches"), which made this former resident smile, as many of us had poked jibes at these for many years. Then there was this passage:

"Florida is the Play-Doh State. Take the goo; mold it to your dream. Then watch the dream ooze back into goo. People are constantly ruining Florida; Florida is constantly ruining them back."

Will admit that I laughed at this and a few more descriptions... until I reached page viii, where part of a sentence jumped out at me: "Florida lacks alluvial soil..." This statement jolted me, remembering back to junior high in Florida when I received a verbal smack down from a teacher for missing the word in a quiz. Florida has no alluvial soil? It's mentioned in Hollee Temple's 2006 book,
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful By wogan TOP 500 REVIEWER on April 18, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
There are many facts in this book that are interesting, such as Florida is the only state with no metals and then when you think you know it all, T.D. Allman proceeds to dispel absolutely every historical fact that you have been taught about the state and its history. It is a fact that much of what is written in history textbooks is a glorification of conquering the land and the native peoples and definitely the saying that history is written by the winners is a fact. The problem with this history is that it is written in a seemingly angry, sarcastic manner and in in a way that is completely critical of everything about the state and the federal government. The only person that comes out without criticism is Claude Pepper, who definitely had his faults too.

Absolutely everything that Allman writes concerns that fact that history has been fabricated by everyone, except him.The atmosphere in Florida is to blame the victim, whites can shoot, maim kill other races with no punishment even today. Almost every chapter brings up and compares what is happening to the admittedly little known and horrid massacre at Fort Negro. It is as if this is the only place in the world that carnages and injustice has prevailed. He constantly reminds readers that anyone who has brought fortunes to Florida has been wiped out, with the exception of Walt Disney who lied and finagled his way into skirting tax and environmental laws which every rich person in Florida gets to do. Even the poor do not complain as their access to beaches is constantly blocked so that bridges can rise to let the rich yachts sail by.

Allman seems to take pleasure in describing the blood and gore, massacres and killings. He tells how the confederate army`s fighting was not a trail of glory but of blood, pus and vomit.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By R. C Sheehy on June 15, 2013
Format: Hardcover
I had to struggle to read through this entire book hoping against hope that at some point it would turn into something decent. Instead it is nothing but tabloid stories where nothing good nor even decent came from Florida. The state was run by no one but racist demagogues who accomplished nothing of substance. They are all liars and thieves and anyone who ever set foot in Florida did so because they were either a fool or a con-artist. It is odd that nothing of any value came from Florida. No mention of the accomplishments by natives and no mention of anything good.

This book is just rubbish and I suggest you not waste any time reading it.
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38 of 50 people found the following review helpful By Parnassus on Wheels on March 31, 2013
Format: Hardcover
I enjoyed this book a lot more once I gave up thinking of it as history and accepted it as a colossal work of satire: "the use of wit, especially irony, sarcasm, and ridicule, to criticize faults." It helped to hear its author proclaim, on the radio, "I will say proudly - I did no primary research for this book."

Using secondary sources, many off the Internet, T. D. Allman sets out to make Florida look as ridiculous as possible. Using his considerable ability to turn a phrase, he pokes fun at nearly every aspect of the Sunshine State. Even when he seems to be giving a compliment, his praise is double-edged. For example, he calls slave-owner Zephaniah Kingsley, who married one of his slaves and impregnated several others, "Florida's extraordinarily insightful social theorist," and later on, "Florida's forgotten philosopher of sex and love."

It gets wilder. He dismisses Florida's Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, as "an oddity, a curiosity, an irrelevancy to American Literature."

Other writers don't fare much better. Sidney Lanier, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Constance Fenimore Woolson are all painted with Allman's broad brush of ridicule, primarily for being products of their time. If they say anything nice about Florida in their writing, he accuses them of spouting "PR" designed to lure tourists. Even Carl Hiasson, who turns up both in Allman's acknowledgements and his list of "classic Florida losers" for not managing to portray the state negatively enough to keep people away, would be hard-pressed to know whether he is being blessed or damned.

Allman's bluster can turn bitterly political, especially against Florida's historians, both living and dead.
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