But if South Florida must be cut off from the rest of the state, the Miami New Times suggested a much better nation category for South Florida – Swamplandia, after author Karen Russell’s 2011 novel.

Here’s writer Mike Miller’s description:

Founded by a teetotalling widow and a monopolist oil baron, Swamplandia has long been a menagerie of delusional dreamers, Ponzi schemers, and rakish ruffians reinventing themselves in a tropical climate. It prizes cash, money, dinero, moolah, balling hard, Maybachs, strippers, champagne, cocaine, surgically sculpted T&A, and – above all – American football. Since 1980, it has been more comfortable speaking Spanish than English, but if you need to ask why pues vete pa la pinga con ese pendejo Fidel. We clash with pretty much every other region, which all see us as superficial outsiders. But, like, whatever. Swamplandia may be the newest of American nations, yet we’re American all the same.

The Top Twenty Books I Read in 2016

Oh, 2016. The year that gave me a promising new life with one hand and ripped up what peace of mind I had left with the other. What better way to deal with such a confusing emotional state than to read a bunch of wonderful books, many about incredibly tough subjects? Arguably, there are many better ways, but I like reading.

20. Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick (2013)

Traumatized seventeen-year-old Leonard Peacock makes a plan to kill his former abuser and then himself, but first he needs to visit four people who are important to him and say goodbye (without, of course, letting them know he’s saying goodbye). Throughout the day, he’s caught between trying to talk himself out of his horrible goal and feeling he has no other option. This is an affecting, compulsively readable novel with experimental bits that really pay off (especially Leonard’s letters to himself from a semi-dystopian future).

19. Swamplandia! by Karen Russell (2011)

After her mother’s untimely death, thirteen-year-old Ava Bigtree’s family falls apart, along with their Floridian gator-wrestling theme park. Her senile grandfather is sent to a nursing home, her brother runs away to another theme park, and her father departs for the mainland for an indefinite time, leaving Ava alone with her séance-obsessed older sister Osceola. Then Osceola elopes with a ghost, driving Ava to take a perilous journey into the swamp.  At turns fanciful and brutal, this is a fascinating and spooky story about grief and how scary nature is.

18. Sweetest Scoundrel by Elizabeth Hoyt (2015)

In 1740s London, withdrawn Eve Dinwoody is appointed by her half-brother to sort out the accounts of his investment, a pleasure garden owned by the boisterous middle-class Asa Makepeace. Eve and Asa are complete opposites who disagree about all matters financial, but they also have chemistry and actually turn out to care about each other’s problems. The family relationships in this romance are particularly strong, plus I liked that the aristocratic characters were so tangential to the story; it’s mostly a story about theatre people.

Keep reading

In our interview with author Karen Russell we discussed how her South Florida childhood influenced her bestselling book Swamplandia! about a gator-wrestling amusement park:

“We did go on annual field trips to watch alligator wrestling when I was a kid, so I’m sure that had some kind of psychological impact. … I think people from different regions probably have that relationship to who knows what, like a deer or a cow, I don’t know. But the alligator for me was the emblem of everything sublime and ancient and mysterious and other, so it had a lot of significance for me as a writer, and I just tried to translate that for readers.”

photo by coolbriere via flickr