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April 4-6, 2025

Word of South

Gary Mormino

Inspired by the experience of his Sicilian grandparents who settled in the sugarcane fields of Louisiana, Gary R. Mormino wrote his doctoral dissertation at UNC-Chapel Hill about a famous Italian immigrant community in St. Louis, Missouri, known as “The Hill.”   As a history professor at University of South Florida in Tampa in 1977, he fell in love with another immigrant enclave, Ybor City. Once or twice a week he visited the neighborhood’s immigrant social clubs and conducted hundreds of interviews. In 1987 he and a former classmate published The Immigrant World of Ybor City, whichreceived the Howard Marraro prize as the year’s best study in Italian history.

While reading Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings’ The Yearling, Dr Mormino realized that the next great story he needed to tell was occurring every single day in Florida: scrub forests bulldozed to build a shopping center while another thousand transplants arrived. In 2005, he wrote Land of Sunshine, State of Dreams: A Social History of Modern Florida. His new book, Dreams in the New Century, represents a sequel and explores one of the most transformational decades in state history, 2000-2010. He’ll be appearing at Word of South as part of our panel of non-fiction Florida Book Award winners.