Paul Fisher, the protagonist of Tangerine, has bad eyes, but this doesn’t mean he’s blind. In fact Paul sees through most things in his upper middle class community—a sterile housing development in Tangerine County, Florida, called Lake Windsor Downs, where Paul and his family have just moved. Told in journal entries, Tangerine provides an intimate look into a divided community. On the one side is the sterile and ultra-safe environment of the Lake Windsor and its wealthy housing developments; on the other side is Tangerine, an enclave of Hispanic and black working families, the people who labor in the orange groves and service Lake Windsor, poor people who depend on each others’ loyalty and commitment to survive. As Paul grows close to the rough but honest kids of Tangerine, he comes to see the lies and the violence festering beneath the surface of his own community and family.
At the heart of Lake Windsor’s problems is Paul’s own brother, Erik. In his senior year of school, he is determined to be a football star. Paul and Erik’s parents and the rest of the community feed into this dream to the point that they blind themselves to Erik’s dark side—a side that directly impacts the people of Tangerine.
While Tangerine is a story about class difference, power, denial and glory, it is also very much a story about a place. Tangerine County is entirely unique, with its underground lignite fires, its constant lightning strikes, its landscape of orange groves, and its people. In the unique geography where the orange trees thrive, so do the divisions between those who labor in the groves and those who don’t. The story of Tangerine can’t be separated from its unique and vibrant geographic location.