“Backroads of Paradise” Author Cathy Salustri

“Backroads of Paradise” Author Cathy Salustri

Wednesday February 22, 2017 6:30 PM

Join us on Wednesday, February 22 at 6:30 pm (note special time) to hear author Cathy Salustri talk about her book Backroads of Paradise: A Journey to Rediscover Old Florida, published by the University Press of Florida.

RSVP to (941) 205-2560 or copperfishbooks@comcast.net.

In the 1930s, the Federal Writers’ Project sent mostly anonymous writers, but also Zora Neale Hurston and Stetson Kennedy, into the depths of Florida to reveal its splendor to the world. The FWP and the State of Florida jointly published the results as Florida: A Guide to the Southernmost State, which included twenty-two driving tours of the state’s main roads.  Retracing the original routes in the Guide, Cathy Salustri rekindles our notions of paradise by bringing a modern eye to the historic travelogues. Salustri’s 5,000-mile road trip reveals a patchwork quilt of Florida cultures: startling pockets of history and environmental bliss stitched against the blight of strip malls and franchise restaurants. 

Following the original Guide, Salustri crisscrosses the state from the panhandle to the Keys. She guides readers through forgotten and unknown corners of the state—nude beaches, a rattlesnake cannery, Devil’s Millhopper in Gainesville—as well as more familiar haunts—Kennedy Space Center and The Villages, “Florida’s Friendliest Retirement Hometown.” Woven through these journeys are nuggets of history, environmental debates about Florida’s future, and a narrative that combines humor with a strong affection for an oft-maligned state.

Today, Salustri urges, tourists need a new nudge to get off the interstates or away from Disney in order to discover the real Florida. Her travel narrative, following what are now backroads and scenic routes, guides armchair travelers and road warriors alike to historic sites, natural wonders, and notable man-made attractions—comparing the past views with the present landscape and commenting on the changes, some barely noticeable, others extreme, along the way.

Cathy Salustri is the arts and entertainment editor at Creative Loafing Tampa and lives in Gulfport, Florida.