South Florida consistently ranks among the worst metropolitan areas nationwide for traffic and congestion. On average, Miamians spend 100 hours a year stuck in gridlock. And as our public transportation system consistently has issues with reliability and usage, we all know how difficult it can be to get around here.
FIU creative writing professor Lynne Barrett edited the new collection of short stories called Making Good Time: True Stories of How We Do and Don’t Get Around South Florida. The collection includes 31 different stories from authors who have all spent a good portion of their life travelling around South Florida. They are intentionally eclectic, from Jennine Capo Crucet’s piece about thieves using canals to escape from houses they’ve robbed, to Patricia Engel’s experience of strangers fixing her broken down car on Collins Drive on Miami Beach.
“The book isn't solely about transportation because it's about all kinds of forms of movement and it's also about the construction of the space through which we move,” said Barrett. She spoke with WLRN Producer Chris Remington about the anthology. She'll also be on a panel at the Miami Book Fair with some of the contributors to the collection on Sunday, Nov. 24th.
WLRN: Transportation is one of the biggest issues we cover in our newsroom. The constant traffic, construction projects, problems with public transit, these consistently come up in our reporting and feedback from listeners. I’m curious what inspired you to edit this collection of short stories?
BARRETT: My original inspiration was really the understanding that, over my time here, people kept telling me stories that all involved movement in some way or another. Whether the movement was being stymied or enabled. Often they would choose a place and say how it used to be in that place and how different it looks now. So there's a sense of change and time, often not for the good, and a kind of worry that things are changing so fast and potentially getting bad so fast that there won't be anyone else who remembers how it was or there won't be a way to talk about how it was. So partly it was how movement through space was also a movement through time and memory that led me to formulate a way to go about talking about it.
There are 31 different short stories in the book. Let's talk about a couple of them. One of my favorites was from Alex Segarra talking about taking the metrorail as a child in the city for the book. The story focuses on his parents' divorce and how the ride on the train was an opportunity to really reflect on it. Why did you select this story? Why was this one of the stories that was of real interest to you?
Well, first I was approaching Alex, who in his crime novels, which are set here, you see how much he pays a lot of attention to movement. He's very, I would say, obsessed with the representation of South Florida in modern time. And so at the same time, these were nonfiction stories. And I asked him to think about what he would want to write about. And he came up with this particular journey as one that was a new journey for him, a new journey for his family, in that his father is the one who's going on this essentially school trip where it would've been his mother. It marks a kind of departure and arrival in his life because arriving at the book fair is also kind of a step towards a future he would have, although he didn't know it there. And arrivals and departures were among the kind of keywords I sent to people saying, think about these things.
I want to get to another great story. This is from former WLRN healthcare reporter Sammy Mack. She wrote about her experience being pregnant in Miami during the Zika scare. This was an interesting look about how she couldn't get around Miami, talk about the story.
Yes, because she was very experienced as a reporter on these issues. And the piece includes her experience reporting, discovering how public health could and couldn't work. It also affected Miami in that some of the places that had been marked as Zika zones were places that had been working very hard to make themselves accessible. Wynwood, for instance, was coming up in the arts and what happens all of a sudden when this one summer it's not possible to go there? And then she herself was pregnant, therefore at risk. And she describes dressing herself covered from head to foot to even go near it.
Yeah, and not only getting dressed up, but getting dressed head to toe when it's 90 or 100 degrees out.
Exactly. So she describes that very vividly and she also gives the consequences for her. Everything came out ok, but there was a lot of risk. It's a piece about reporting but it's also about being a woman. And it turns out that the way women's movement is trammeled sometimes or blocked, came up in other stories without my having asked anyone to specifically talk about that. It still comes through in the book that the experiences are different. So I think that opens up some other conversations that could be had.