Florida has always had an intoxicating aura, like shimmering green neon emerging from a radioactive swamp, inviting you to look. The Sunshine State has long been the face of A24, who shot four films there — Moonlight, spring breakers, The Florida project, and Zola – telling eerie stories that follow the unexpected corners and people who make the state what it is, told in vivid and beautiful technicolor. Now A24 is passing the mic to Florida writers and artists to tell its story, in the new Coffee Table Travel Guide Florida! A hyper-local guide to the flora, fauna, and fantasy of America’s most remote statewhich comes out August 31st.
The book was edited by Gabrielle Calise, who served as the culture and nostalgia reporter for the Tampa Bay Weather for the past four years. Calise grew up in Florida and was in high school when the studio was filming spring breakerswhich takes place in her hometown of St. Petersburg, where she would try to sneak onto the set to catch a glimpse of Vanessa Hudgens.
“I thought it was cool that A24 wanted to pass the mic to Floridians and let them have the ball,” Calise told NYLON. “This book is a rally that goes into corners of Florida and covers things you might not otherwise know.”
Content jumps over Disney’s industrial complex and sinks deep into the shore of Floribama; nudist colonies in Pasco County; Jules’ Underwater Lodge, a hotel in the swimming pool; Paradise Park, one of America’s first resorts run by people of color, and the story of the Miami-Tampa fight over the Cuban sandwich, all in beautiful clean-lined illustrations in pink Pepto and lagoon blue by Miami artist Gabriel Alcalá.
The book covers the state from north to south (there is a saying that when it comes to Florida: the further north you go, the further south you go) from the Panhandle to the Keys in 500 pages, exploring the orange groves and alligator farms and underwater pizza delivery and St. Petersburg’s Gay Commit Skate Crew.
“Every time something comes out on Florida, I want to see what unique twist is going to be put there. I think A24 does a good job with a range of more emotional stories, with deep plots that run through films that are also flashy, fun, and colorful. People can come because they see these crazy promotional materials for these movies and they come out and they have more to offer. I wanted to do the same with the book,” Calise said. “There’s a lot of whimsical and wacky stuff and there’s depth and surprises, and every time I’ve seen an A24 movie about Florida, I’ve woken up to the same thing. Rather, it’s this fascination with Florida that everyone shares because it’s such a fascinating and strange place.
Some of the stories were also inspired by The Florida Projectwith sections dedicated to the history of the Twisty Treat ice cream chain and not one, but two giant wizard-headed souvenir shops.
It’s a project by hard-working Floridians, with other contributors like Florida podcast historian Nick D’Alessandro Ashira Morris, who has covered traditions like throwing dead fish at the annual mullet throw, l road attraction expert Kathryn Varn, Jason Katz who writes on cypto zoology and myths, and The Florida Projectby Brooklyn Prince.
“The national media has flattened the complex history and stories of the state into headlines ‘Florida Man Arrested for Attempting to Get Drunk with Alligator,’ which focus only on the tragic part of the story. State – and none of its magic,” writes the fifth-generation Floridian. Tyler Gillespie is in the intro. “Florida may have its fair share of drunken alligators, but, as you’ll see in this book, flower country has a lot more brightly colored flowers.”