May 21, 2023 - News

The books representing Florida at this year's National Book Festival

Illustration of a sun with rays made from an open book

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Florida's dual nature is contrasted in the two books representing the state at this year's National Book Festival.

Driving the news: The Florida chapter of the Library of Congress Center for the Book chose Gary Mormino's "Dreams in the New Century" and Christina Diaz Gonzalez's "The Bluest Sky" for the annual festival in Washington, D.C.

Why it matters: The state's Center for the Book boosts the work of local authors onto the national stage, and this year's picks offer readers a window into our state's history, vibrant culture and landscapes.

  • The selections also earn a spot on the Great Reads from Great Places list.

Between the pages: Mormino's "Dreams in the New Century" explores Florida's transformation from a state regarded as a vacation hotspot chock-full of elderly residents to a powerhouse in national politics.

  • His book examines the state's real estate boom, diverse leaders and explosive population growth from 2000 through 2010.

Diaz Gonzalez's "The Bluest Sky" presents a fictionalized account of the 1980 Mariel boatlift. In the book, a Cuban native weighs whether to risk everything to go to the U.S. or remain on the island.

  • The author's great-grandmother and extended family arrived in the U.S. during the Mariel boatlift.

What they're saying: The selections "shine a light on our diverse stories and the people who live here," Patricia Putman, of the Florida Center for the Book, said in a statement.

  • "This book is dear to my heart," Diaz Gonzalez said in a press release. "In writing this story, my hope is that readers will gain a greater appreciation for the difficult decisions immigrants must often make."

Flashback: The center chose "Strange Birds: A Field Guide to Ruffling Feathers," from award-winning author Celia Perez last year. Perez is a graduate of the University of Florida and the University of South Florida.

What's next: St. Petersburg's Tombolo Books is scheduled to host an evening with Mormino and Diaz Gonzalez on June 21 at 7pm.

  • This year's National Book Festival will be on Aug. 12 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.

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