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Diane Roberts

Diane Roberts is a commentator on Weekend Edition Sunday. An eighth-generation Floridian, she is Professor of English at Florida State University in Tallahassee, where she pulls weeds in the spring and attends FSU football games in the fall. She went to Oxford University courtesy of a Marshall Scholarship in 1980 and earned a bachelor's degree in English literature and a doctorate in American literature.

She is the author of three books, including Dream State (Free Press, 2004), a history of Florida through her strange and varied family. Roberts' kinfolk include Civil War soldiers, moonshiners, plantation owners, bus drivers, swamp lawyers and party fixers. Her cousin Governor Napoleon Bonaparte Broward wanted to drain the Everglades, and her cousin Clayton Roberts was director of the division of elections during the presidential vote recount imbroglio of 2000.

Roberts' previous two books — Faulkner and Southern Womanhood (University of Georgia Press, 1993) and The Myth of Aunt Jemima (Routledge, 1994) — are explorations of Southern culture, a subject she taught at the University of Alabama. She is also a journalist, writing op-ed pieces for The New York Times, The New Republic, and The Times of London. She is a political columnist for The St. Petersburg Times in Florida and makes documentaries for BBC Radio in London, where she also spends part of the year.

Roberts is so peripatetic that she cannot give an accurate count of the pairs of shoes she owns, but she knows it's at least three dozen, spread out across two continents. She has been a commentator for NPR since 1993, starting out at Weekend All Things Considered then moving to Weekend Edition Sunday in 1996. She would like everyone to know that the weather in Florida is actually terrible: hurricanes, thunderstorms, and sometimes even snow and ice — at least up in Tallahassee.

  • Spot a manatee, the friendly, charming and prehistoric marine animal common in Florida's waters, and you're likely to think they're constantly besieged by sharks or other toothy killers. Many bear heavy scars and other marks of attack. But, as essayist Diane Roberts writes, manatees have no natural predators. What's attacking them? Boat propellers.
  • Nature's fury has shown itself in killer tornadoes that have swept the Midwest and the South. Now comes hurricane season, which officially begins on Wednesday. Essayist Diane Roberts has seen both kinds of storm and knows which she'd rather deal with.
  • On Jan. 10, 1861, Florida became the third state to secede from the Union, after South Carolina and Mississippi. Eight other states would soon follow, igniting the bloodiest war in American history. Weekend Edition commentator and Florida native Diane Roberts explores why the Civil War still has such a hold on the Southern imagination.
  • Weekend Edition essayist Diane Roberts visited England recently, where she found some of her favorite doughnuts in the unlikeliest of places: Britain's famously hoity-toity department store, Harrods. The Southern native took one bite of the sublime confection -- OK, several bites -- and felt right at home...
  • Unlike the rest of the country, the denizens of Tallahassee, Florida are not happy that the elections of 2004 have come to an end. An essay by Diane Roberts.
  • Essayist and "part-time" hotline operator Diane Roberts has tips on how to cure those turkey woes.
  • "Eighty-two years after women got the right to vote," observes essayist Diane Roberts, "it's not remarkable to see women asking for votes." But, she says, we often respond as though it is unusual, and that limits our perspective on women as political candidates.