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Book Talk

Cathy Salustri will speak about her book, Backroads of Paradise: A Journey to Rediscover Old Florida. In the 1930s the Federal Writers’ Project sent writers to create a guidebook to Florida. Author and Gulfport resident Cathy Salustri has retraced their journeys on what once Ben Montgomery Colette Bancroft Cathy Salustri. were the state’s major highways and are now the forgotten byways. She revisits the Sunshine State of yesterday to see what remains: Florida’s oldest diner (great milkshakes!), cattle ranches, springs and swamps, gators and skunk apes, from the era before interstates and theme parks.

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An article from the November 2017 CrossTown:

Wander the Back Roads of Florida At our November Book Talk Our November book talk speaker is Cathy Salustri, author of Backroads of Paradise: A Journey to Rediscover Old Florida.

In the 1930s, the Federal Writers Project sent writers to Florida to create a guidebook called Florida: A Guide to the Southernmost State, which included 22 driving tours of what were then the state's main roads. Those highways are now the back roads and byways, the world we never see as we whiz along I-75 and I-4. Cathy Salustri's book follows those roads of yesteryear to see what's still there. Cathy Salustri is a writer, photographer, and the arts and entertainment editor at Creative Loafing Tampa. She lives in Gulfport.

Some Q's and A's with Cathy:

Q. How did you hear about the Federal Writers' Project guidebook to Florida, and what inspired you to retrace those trips?

A. I learned about A Guide to the Southernmost State when I was a graduate assistant at the Florida Studies program at USF St. Pete. I had to make copies out of different books for one of my professors, and we had the slowest copier in the world, so while I waited for the copier to finish another set of copies, I browsed the next thing I was supposed to copy — A Guide to the Southernmost State — and I fell in love. When it came time to write my thesis, several years later, I was itching to find out what would happen if I retraced those routes — so I did.

Q. What's the most bizarre thing you found in your travels?

A. Oh, wow — so it’s really popular to talk about bizarre Florida, and I’m happy to say I didn’t see much of it in the 5,000 miles I traveled. What I did see were countless communities finding a way to retain their individuality and remain (or become again) vibrant. Florida is really a November 2017 Page 7 return to Page 1 November Book Talk continued from Page 6 collection of small towns linked by a few big cities. Most people miss that.

Q. What's the place you'd most like to return to?

A. Every year since I was 30, I’ve gone to the Florida Keys at least once a year. This year we intended to go in late October, but the place we go is still putting things back together after Hurricane Irma, so I’m not sure we’ll get there, and that makes me sad. Other than that, there’s not a place in Florida I wouldn’t go again — and the Panhandle beaches are definitely tempting, especially Grayton Beach and Perdido Key.

Q. Persuade someone to read your book in 50 words or less.

A. Backroads of Paradise is every great Florida experience wrapped in history and a bit of humor, and it makes you simultaneously want to take a road trip and feel as though you’ve just been on one.


Earlier Event: November 14
Women's Bible Study
Later Event: November 14
Restoring Respect Series