“Leza was so easy to talk to! Down to earth yet prepared. Very human. I felt we were talking like friends.”
I had the great pleasure of meeting Sarah Gerard at AWP in D.C. earlier this year. She was putting temporary tattoos of Florida native animals on people. I picked the jellyfish. She licked the tattoo and stuck it on my arm. It was whimsical and intimate. It was brilliant. She was promoting her new book, Sunshine State. I did not know this, though. All I knew was that she had given me a jellyfish tattoo that lasted surprisingly long after I left the con. When I saw praise for Sunshine State coming from places like Rolling Stone, The Paris Review, The New York Times, MPR, & NYLON, I was not surprised but I was excited to read the book.
I did not know what to expect. When something is labelled ‘personal essays,’ it can mean a lot of things. I had recently enjoyed So Sad Today by Melissa Broder, so I was looking for something personal, real, and raw.
I got all that and more, with Sunshine State. Each chapter touches on a different topic; some very personal, others about other people and situations where she is looking in on something unfolding and searching for the story in a more journalistic way. The main character is Florida itself, and the imagery that links these colorful stories of love, loss, and madness, are the animals of Florida.
This collection is raw and gorgeous. These stories get under your skin. Sarah Gerard has a voice that is not fixed. It is mutable and complex like the many birds of Florida, from the elegant Great blue Heron to the delicate Willet. Her voice is soft, her voice is hard, rage and compassion battle it out on the page. There is darkness but there is also so much light int his beautiful collection.
When I finished reading the book, I asked her to come on my podcast, where we talked in greater depth about the book and also other random stuff like why we hate poodles (bc they are annoying! duh). I had lots of fun talking to Sarah, who is as sweet and real in real life as you would expect from reading her writings. Pay attention to this one. She’s going places.
Sarah Gerard is the author of the essay collection Sunshine State, the novel Binary Star, a finalist for the Los Angeles Times first fiction prize, and two chapbooks, most recently BFF. Her short stories, essays, interviews, and criticism have appeared in The New York Times, Granta, Vice, BOMB Magazine, and other journals, as well as anthologies. She’s been supported by fellowships and residencies from Yaddo, Tin House, PlatteForum, and Ucross. She writes a monthly column for Hazlitt and teaches writing in New York City.