South Florida is filled with people and cultures from all around the world. Because of its diverse and rich history, there are countless stories waiting to be told and heard. Many of these tales deserve to be recognized and loved. Here are some books that best capture both the joys and sorrows of those who have lived here. Whether you are reading purely for entertainment or curiosity about others’ lives, be sure to check these out.
Starting off the list is a book of children’s historical fiction. “Turtle in Paradise” follows a protagonist, Turtle, as she and her mother move from New Jersey to Key West in the 1930s. She learns to navigate her new surroundings and to find her place in this new world. It is a heartwarming tale of the little girl and her cousins as they adventure in the conch capital and discover hidden treasures as well as family secrets. This book takes you back in time and is great if you want to learn some Key West History. It’s available for purchase at Books and Books in Coral Gables or for check out through the Miami Dade Public Library System.
Edwidge Danticat chronicles the lives of her family in this astonishing family memoir. The book details the life of Danticat’s father, Mira, and his brother Joseph. While a portion of it takes place in Miami within the community of Little Haiti, the reader also travels to various locations including Haiti and New York. You get a deep and personal look into their lives and follow their journey. This book is hauntingly beautiful, so prepare to have your heart broken. Set aside some tissues for when you decide to pick it up. It’s available for purchase at Books and Books in Coral Gables and for check-out through the Miami Dade Public Library System.
If you are looking for something to provide some fun entertainment, then “Florida Roadkill” is the book for you. Set in Miami during the 1997 World Series in which the Florida Marlins beat the Cleveland Indians, this is a funny and fast-paced book. Protagonist Serge Storms is not exactly a good person and neither are the people with whom he chooses to partner. Their wild adventures and antics will have you entertained. You will find yourself rooting for them and their not-so-legal activities. If you find yourself wanting more from these characters, do not worry because this book is just the first in a series. It’s available for purchase at Books and Books in Coral Gables and for check out through the Miami Dade Public Library System.
Carl Hiaasen’s versatility in writing is displayed in “Hoot,” his first children’s novel. Hoot is a heartwarming and fun novel that follows the story of Roy, a quirky and relatable character who recently moved to Florida. He goes through many adventures with comedic twists and new friendships that eventually lead him to a journey of environmental protection and teamwork. While reading, you will find a colorful description of the place where Hiaasen grew up. It’s available for purchase at Books and Books in Coral Gables and for check out through the Miami Dade Public Library System.
Following the success of his first memoir, Carlos Eire continues describing his story as an 11-year-old refugee boy from Cuba. His story is best described in the title of the Spanish version of this book: “Miami y Mis Mil Muertes,” translated to “Miami and My Thousand Deaths,” which refers to the multiple times he felt like dying, a constant and lonely feeling he experienced throughout his life. This book showcases Eire’s fighting spirit as a young immigrant boy in Miami who is learning to love his new country and his poetic transition into adulthood. It’s available for purchase at Books and Books in Coral Gables and for check out through the Miami Dade Public Library System.
If you enjoy reading stories about self-realization and empowerment, you will love this touching novel by a remarkable figure of the Harlem Renaissance, Zora Neale Hurston. Set in central and southern Florida, “Their Eyes Were Watching God” follows the journey of Janie Crawford, a 40-year-old woman who shares her experiences with gender roles, racism, oppression, and love while growing up in Florida as an African American woman in the early 20th century. This is a novel that transcends time. It’s available for purchase at Books and Books in Coral Gables and for check out through the Miami Dade Public Library System.
Ana Menendez uses her experience as the daughter of Cuban immigrants to create a book unlike any other that you will find. It is a unique collection of short stories in which you follow many diverse characters. Each tale is a different take on the immigrant experience. Various parts of Cuba and Miami are encountered including Havana and Ocean Drive. While the book does not follow a single plot or character, each story and the characters are connected. It’s available for purchase at Books and Books in Coral Gables and for checkout through the Miami Dade Public Library System.