Cover image for Sunshine State : essays
Sunshine State : essays
Gerard, Sarah, author.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Harper Perennial, [2017].

Physical Description:
359 pages ; 21 cm.
Sunshine State offers a unique look at Florida, a state whose economically and environmentally imperiled culture serves as a lens through which we can examine some of the most pressing issues haunting our nation.
BFF -- Mother-father God -- Going diamond -- Records -- The mayor of Williams Park -- Sunshine state -- Rabbit -- Before: an inventory.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PS3607 .E7285 S86 2017 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

On Order



Longlisted for the PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay

A New York Times Critics' Best Books of the Year * An NPR Best Book of the Year * A NYLON Best Nonfiction Book of the Year * A Buzzfeed Best Nonfiction Book of the Year * An Entrophy Magazine Best Non-Fiction Book of the Year * A Brooklyn Rail Best Non-Fiction Book of the Year * A Baltimore Beat Best Book of the Year

A Paris Review Staff Pick * A Chicago Tribune Exciting Book for 2017 * A Rolling Stone Culture Index Reccomendation * A Buzzfeed Most Exciting Book for 2017 * A The Millions Great 2017 Book Preview Pick * A Huffington Post 2017 Preview Pick * A NYLON Best 10 Books of the Month * A Lit Hub 15 Books to Read This Month A Poets & Writers New and Noteworth Selection * A PW Top 10 Spring Pick in Essays & Literary Criticism * An Emma Straub Reccomendation on PBS

"One of the themes of 'Sunshine State,' Sarah Gerard's striking book of essays, is how Florida can unmoor you and make you reach for shoddy, off-the-shelf solutions to your psychic unease.... The first essay is a knockout, a lurid red heart wrapped in barbed wire.... This essay draws blood." -- Dwight Garner, New York Times

"Unflinchingly candid memoir bolstered by thoughtfully researched history.... A nuanced and subtly intimate mosaic... her writing, lucid yet atmospheric, takes on a timeless ebb and flow." -- Jason Heller,

"Stunning." -- Rolling Stone

"These large-hearted, meticulous essays offer an uncanny x-ray of our national psyche... showing us both the grand beauty of our American dreams and the heartbreaking devastation they wreak." -- Garth Greenwell, author of What Belongs to You

Sarah Gerard follows her breakout novel, Binary Star, with the dynamic essay collection Sunshine State, which explores Florida as a microcosm of the most pressing economic and environmental perils haunting our society.

In the collection's title essay, Gerard volunteers at the Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary, a world renowned bird refuge. There she meets its founder, who once modeled with a pelican on his arm for a Dewar's Scotch campaign but has since declined into a pit of fraud and madness. He becomes our embezzling protagonist whose tales about the birds he "rescues" never quite add up. Gerard's personal stories are no less eerie or poignant: An essay that begins as a look at Gerard's first relationship becomes a heart-wrenching exploration of acquaintance rape and consent. An account of intimate female friendship pivots midway through, morphing into a meditation on jealousy and class.

With the personal insight of The Empathy Exams, the societal exposal of Nickel and Dimed, and the stylistic innovation and intensity of her own break-out debut novel Binary Star, Sarah Gerard's Sunshine State uses the intimately personal to unearth the deep reservoirs of humanity buried in the corners of our world often hardest to face.

Author Notes

Sarah Gerard is the author of the novel Binary Star (Two Dollar Radio), which was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Award for First Fiction and appeared on best book of the year lists for NTR, Vanity Fair, Buzzfeed, and Flavorwire. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times, Pans Review Daily, Vice, BOMB, and other publications. She teaches writing in New York City.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Gerard, writing instructor and novelist (Binary Star, 2015), shares several long-form, creative, journalistic essays that feature her family, herself, and her home state, Florida. In Going Diamond, she alternates the factual history of Amway and her parents' involvement with the company in the 1990s and a fictional house-hunt by a couple who's achieved Amway's highest pin level, Diamond. In another essay, Gerard shadows and profiles G. W. Rolle, a man who escaped decades of homelessness and now tirelessly helps others do the same, while she also tells a broader history of homelessness in Florida and the policies and advocacy surrounding it. In the book's title essay, she immerses herself in a bird sanctuary to try to make sense of its, and its owner's, much-maligned public image. Gerard's memoiristic essays, compelling and confessional, are welcome breaks from the fascinating, densely researched narrative nonfiction that drives the majority of her book. Focusing on a single state, Gerard's scope is nonetheless quite large, and her sensitive, sympathetic writer's sensitivity for her subjects and interviewees is apparent.--Bostrom, Annie Copyright 2017 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

Brave, keenly observational, and humanitarian, Gerard's (Binary Star) collection of essays illuminates the stark realities of Florida's Gulf Coast. With a mixture of investigative journalism and firsthand experience, she brings to life outspoken zealots, hopeless romantics, and escapist youth. She describes the hunger of Christian Scientists for earthly and spiritual wellness, Amway members for self-determined success, adolescents for reckless euphoria, testosterone-flooded males for dominance, and the underprivileged for nothing more than adequate housing and shelter. Gerard is a virtuoso of language, which in her hands is precise, unlabored, and quietly wrought with emotion. As evinced by the extensive bibliography and endnotes, she is also a very diligent journalist. To some, her thorough analyses of flawed legislation, business, religion, and literary journalism may feel long-winded at times, but readers interested in those topics will be fascinated. The chapters that will reach any reader are her deeply sad yet valiant personal essays on youth and death. Gerard's collection leaves an indelible impression. Fans of literary nonfiction and dark reverie will welcome it. (Apr.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Library Journal Review

Writer Gerard (Binary Star) was born and raised in the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater metropolitan area, and as a teenager experimented in all the sex, drugs, techno, and nu metal music available in the mid-to-late 1980s and 1990s. These essays offer recollections of her escapades and renderings on homelessness and bird sanctuaries. "Mother-Father God" details her parents' involvement in the Unity Church and her mother's work with local police; "Going Diamond" describes her father's career with Amway and the company's philosophy to dream big, which Gerard acted upon during a recent visit to tour million dollar homes; "The Mayor of Williams Park" tells of the author's acquaintance with a person named G.W., who serves Saturday morning breakfast to the homeless in St. Petersburg. The titular "Sunshine State" outlines her volunteer work at the Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary and details efforts to save injured seabirds. While geographically focused on the west-central coast of Florida, Gerard's essays are not characteristic of the often-published writings on Florida as a touristy hiding place for misfits. The author genuinely writes for herself as much as for the discovery of the reader. VERDICT Writers and regional Florida readers will value this collection.-Joyce Sparrow, Kenneth City, FL © Copyright 2017. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

BFFp. 1
Mother-Father Godp. 17
Going Diamondp. 73
Recordsp. 123
The Mayor of Williams Parkp. 173
Sunshine Statep. 225
Rabbitp. 281
Before: An Inventoryp. 297
Acknowledgmentsp. 307
Bibliographyp. 309
Endnotesp. 327