Following ‘Florida Woman’ into wilderness
Ever wonder what happens to Florida Man, or Florida Woman, after the viral video?
St. Augustine writer Deb Rogers offers a wild and woolly answer in her debut novel, titled — what else? — “Florida Woman.”
Jamie Hawthorne hasn’t been very lucky. When she was a kid, first her parents and then her beloved older brother, Jason, walked out of her life. She finished growing up in foster homes, and since she aged out of them she’s made a paycheck-to-paycheck living waiting tables in the beach towns around St. Augustine.
Then came the viral video. I don’t want to give away too much, but it involves one of those Tiki bars with dollar bills stapled to the walls, a fire and a pelican.
What, no alligator? Don’t worry, Rogers will get to the alligator. But in the meantime Jamie finds herself publicly shamed, broke and about to go to jail.
Then her lawyer, Kayla, works a little magic and gets Jamie an alternative sentence, spending the summer working at Atlas, a sanctuary for macaque monkeys in the wilds of Central Florida. She’ll be working outdoors in the buggy, boiling heat while wearing an ankle monitor, but it sounds better than jail.
Story of Europeans making LA movies during WWII
Another shameful period came during World War II, when Franklin D. Roosevelt’s policies treated so-called “resident aliens” as extensions of the enemies overseas, subjecting legal immigrants and unnaturalized foreigners alike to proscriptions such as curfews and imprisonment in internment camps.
Anthony Marra’s sweeping new novel, “Mercury Pictures Presents,” follows an eclectic group of European immigrants in California during the war who are forced to contend with their government’s changing views of their loyalty and their utility. All these characters are connected to Mercury Pictures International, a second-rate Hollywood studio founded by Artie and Ned Feldman, twin brothers who came to the United States from Silesia in 1901.
The studio thrived during the silent era of the 1920s, but by 1941, Ned was handling the books from the Big Apple while Artie remained in the City of Angels making increasingly sensational films.
Artie’s young assistant, Maria, navigates the Production Code, which determines how much sex, violence and politics are “appropriate” for American audiences. Maria’s story line is the novel’s most robust and rewarding.
Marra maintains a light touch throughout, because this is Hollywood after all, and entertainment is Paramount — or should I say Mercury.
Raw coming-of-age memoir
Erika Sánchez’s debut novel for young adults, “I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter,” offered a fictional account of the constraints of growing up in a poor immigrant family in Chicago. Sánchez’s latest, “Crying in the Bathroom,” a memoir in essays, grows out of the same need to address crushing family circumstances of poverty and limiting gender norms. Blazingly honest and gloriously raucous, the memoir is about the author’s struggle to forge a life of her choosing without viable role models. It’s no surprise that mistakes feature prominently in the book.
“Crying in the Bathroom” is also an artist statement. Watching flamenco dancers in Madrid during a yearlong trip on a Fulbright scholarship set Sánchez on the journey to recovery from depression. The anguished look on the dancers’ faces taught her that perhaps the wound never healed. The burden was to make beauty out of pain.
There’s no quick cauterizing of the wound in this memoir. What Sánchez accomplishes here so well is to offer herself as an uncommon role model for others finding their way. This book is a great gift of hope.