Letter from the Editor

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
By Jacob Brek

Exploring our connections

Francie Nolan, 11 years old, sits reading in her favorite place, the fire escape outside her coldwater flat in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. If there was ever a better heroine for a bookish child of any era, I’ve yet to meet her. If there ever was a better place to read, I’ve yet to find it.

Through the pages of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, I found a friend who saw the world the way I did, never mind that she lived in a tenement around the time of World War 1.

The comfort of that, the joy of that, is what makes reading the indescribable gift that it is.

It’s fascinating, as we put together issues of this magazine, to watch as a picture begins to form. It’s like a photographic image rising from a chemical bath, or a jigsaw puzzle revealing itself, tiny piece by tiny piece, slowly, and then all of a sudden, there it is.

A picture comes into focus and we see those unexpected interconnections that remind us there’s a theme that runs through much of life.
In this issue, we cast our eyes on subjects that seem completely distinct from one another: Books — and the writing of books — and hurricanes.

And yet, as with most things, there’s a link: In this case, it’s the strength and power they each wield.
In this issue, we tell the stories of some of Florida’s top writers. Our state has a deep tradition of serving as muse to some of literature’s most esteemed figures, from Ernest Hemingway to Zora Neale Hurston to Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings (pictured on our cover in a quintessential moment, at her typewriter surrounded by the wild beauty of her Cross Creek property).

From the power of creativity we turn to the massive power of nature — to upend our plans, reshape our environments, and remake the life and development of our state.

In a state abundant with rich talent, we meet the winners of the Florida Book Awards and learn what motivates and drives them; we hear the tales of longtime storyteller Jeff Klinkenberg, winner of the 2018 Florida Lifetime Achievement Award for writing; and explore with Jack E. Davis, the University of Florida history professor, how his newly minted Pulitzer Prize winning book, The Gulf: The Making of an American Sea, came to be.

And we are struck by the power we discover in these stories — of imagination, of perseverance, of the driving need to write, and the power of the completed creation itself.

From the power of creativity we turn to the massive power of nature — to upend our plans, reshape our environments, and remake the life and development of our state.

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Whether you are a native Floridian or a transplanted one, you learn early on what it means to live in the hurricane state. There is no rite of passage quite like living through the fury of a mighty storm. Writers Gary Mormino, Eliot Kleinberg, Sherry Johnson, and Ron Cunningham take a look at how our wild weather has impacted our recent and more distant history, and look at how some experts in emergency management suggest we plan for storms of the future. The stories are compelling.

So, too, is our Heritage Kitchen feature this issue, which looks at the 113-year family history and traditions of the Columbia Restaurant, which has been serving the same Cuban and Spanish recipes introduced by the original members of the Hernandez/Gonzmart family in 1905.

There are many more stories in this issue, including an insider’s visit to Key West; an interview with the new president of the Florida Library Association; a look back at writer/activist Marjory Stoneman Douglas’ early years in Florida; a profile of the state’s Poetry Out Loud competition winner; and our first A Teacher to Remember essay.

We thank you for your support and we hope you enjoy this issue. We’d love to hear from you — your feedback, suggestions, and ideas for future issues. My email is jlevine@flahum.org.

Thanks for reading and happy autumn.

This article originally appeared in the Fall 2018 issue of FORUM magazine.

FORUM Magazine - Letter from the Editor

Jacki Levine
Editor, FORUM magazine
Florida Humanities Council

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