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Sunshine State: Essays
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Longlisted for the PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay Finalist for the Southern Book Prize

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, NPR.org

"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.

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Street Date:
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APA Citation (style guide)

Sarah Gerard. (2017). Sunshine State: Essays. HarperCollins.

Chicago / Turabian - Author Date Citation (style guide)

Sarah Gerard. 2017. Sunshine State: Essays. HarperCollins.

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Sarah Gerard, Sunshine State: Essays. HarperCollins, 2017.

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Sarah Gerard. Sunshine State: Essays. HarperCollins, 2017. Web.

Note! Citation formats are based on standards as of July 2010. Citations contain only title, author, edition, publisher, and year published. Citations should be used as a guideline and should be double checked for accuracy.
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        Sarah Gerard is the author of the essay collection Sunshine State, which was longlisted for the PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay, and the novel Binary Star, which was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction. Her short stories, essays, interviews, and criticism have appeared in the New York Times, T Magazine, Granta, The Baffler, Vice, and the anthologies Tampa Noir, We Can't Help it if We're From Florida, and One Small Blow Against Encroaching Totalitarianism. She lives in New York City with her true love, the writer Patty Yumi Cottrell. Find her at Sarah-Gerard.com.

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Longlisted for the PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay Finalist for the Southern Book Prize

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 &...

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fullDescription

Longlisted for the PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay Finalist for the Southern Book Prize

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, NPR.org

"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.

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reviews
      • premium: False
      • source: Dwight Garner, New York Times
      • content: "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."
      • premium: False
      • source: Rolling Stone
      • content: "Stunning."
      • premium: False
      • source: Garth Greenwell, author of What Belongs to You
      • content: "These large-hearted, meticulous essays offer an uncanny x-ray of our national psyche, examining that American mess of saints and conmen, the peculiar, culpable innocence that American mess of saints and conmen, the peculiar, culpable innocence that confuses money and moral worth, charity and personal aggrandizement. Gerard's prose is lacerating and compassionate at once, showing us both the grand beauty of our American dreams and the heartbreaking devastation they wreak."
      • premium: False
      • source: Buzzfeed
      • content: "To read Sunshine State... is to fall into something like a trance. Gerard's writing transports completely, thanks both to the eerie, atmospheric prose itself and to her thorough investigative journalism; each essay carries the reader to a seemingly foreign world.... There are cogent analyses of legislation, activists, and aesthetics, always grounded by Gerard's connection to her subjects, always led by her distinct voice.... In Gerard's capable hands Florida becomes not so much a geographical state but a state of being, something which can leave an indelible mark on those who call it home."
      • premium: False
      • source: Nicole Rudick, Paris Review
      • content: "Gerard's prose is unlabored, flatly observational, and the interwoven mini stories are at once tender and cold, exhilarating and regrettable—each undermining the one that precedes it."
      • premium: False
      • source: Nick Moran, The Millions
      • content: "Gerard's writing has been described as 'unflinching,' but perhaps the better terms are 'generous' and 'patient.' Her patience is what gets her close enough to her subjects that she can round them out, exhibit their complexities, and her generosity is what keeps her from mocking them.... [The essays] work together to subvert the most common tropes about Florida's antic madness. Instead they focus on humanizing the state's inhabitants—inhabitants with hopes and dreams, who cope with systemic and visceral issues... who would ordinarily be flattened into condescending headlines."
      • premium: False
      • source: Laura van den Berg, BOMB
      • content: "Sunshine State, embodies Florida's unpredictability in the best sense. The essays are structurally intricate and ultraprecise in their depictions of both the physical and human worlds. Always intimate and never insular, they span a wide range of subjects—some trace the personal roots of family histories and youth and lost friendships, while others look outward to environmental conservation, religion, and homelessness."
      • premium: False
      • source: Becca Godwin, Atlanta Journal-Constitution
      • content: "The distinct nature of Florida and its undeniable, magnetic weirdness shines through somewhere in each essay. Yet, despite its title, that enigma of a state isn't the focus. Gerard takes a magnifying glass to powerful characters, herself included, and the underlying truths she unravels could apply to any number of Americans. The reader becomes invested in the characters' lives, at times torn between empathy and disdain, but nonetheless needing to know what becomes of them."
      • premium: False
      • source: Kate Bolick, New York Times Book Review
      • content: "Gerard's native Florida links the assembled eight essays, but the setting is just that - a backdrop against which Gerard exercises an admirable impulse for experimentation. 'BFF' is an extremely intimate autopsy of a childhood friendship. 'The Mayor of Williams Park' is an immersive profile told in the quasi-detached first person, of G.W. Rolle, a minister who serves free weekend lunch meals."
      • premium: False
      • source: B. David Zarley, Paste
      • content: "It takes someone with orange juice in their veins and alligators in their heart to truly bring the lessons of a place as complex as Florida to bear... [Sunshine State] dissects what Florida means to the United States with a nuance and complexity only someone who has lived in it—and, just as importantly, moved away from itcan provide.... Listing the home's elevation, an accurate certificate is requisite to assessing the home's risk of flood damage or, in the case of Florida, its chances of...
      • premium: True
      • source: Publisher's Weekly
      • content:

        Starred review from November 28, 2016
        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.

      • premium: True
      • source: Kirkus
      • content:

        February 15, 2017
        Decidedly odd characters emerge in eight autobiographical essays.Combining journalism and memoir, Gerard (Binary Star, 2015, etc.), a novelist, essayist, and columnist for the online journal Hazlitt, brings a sharp eye to recollections of growing up on Florida's Gulf Coast. Notable for sharply drawn portraits, her essays depict a host of unusual, eccentric men and women. In "Mother-Father God," the author introduces the earnest spiritual leader of the Unity-Clearwater congregation, a New Thought church, where, for more than a decade, her parents were devoted members. Church activities were omnipresent in her life, leading her to wonder, as an adult, why her parents joined, why they left, and how that early connection to the church shaped her. Gerard juxtaposes her parents' biographies with a history of the New Thought movement, particularly Mary Baker Eddy's Christian Science, that arose in late-19th-century America. Like those early followers, the author's parents found in Unity-Clearwater "positive, reaffirming messages," especially the message that "people are not punished for their sins but punished by their sins." Gerard admits that she has been drawn to the church's teaching that individuals create potential in the world by first believing in it. Maybe this ongoing belief in potential attracted her parents to become distributors for Amway, a sketchy marketing corporation accused of being a pyramid scheme. Their involvement, no less enthusiastic than in the church, is the subject of the partly fictionalized essay "Going Diamond," featuring a portrait of Amway's co-founder Richard DeVos, whose son is the husband of the current nominee for Secretary of Education. Another essay details, somewhat repetitively, the author's high school years, marked by drugs, alcohol, sex, and, surprisingly, classical singing lessons. The title essay, although it also would have benefited from further editing, vividly portrays the bizarre director of the Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary, where Gerard visited as a child and returned as a volunteer to conduct research. "The Mayor of Williams Park" offers an engaging profile of an unlikely activist working to ameliorate homelessness. An intimate journey reveals a Florida few visitors would ever discover.

        COPYRIGHT(2017) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

      • premium: True
      • source: Library Journal
      • content:

        March 15, 2017

        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 Journal, LLC Used with permission.

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