Harper Woods library to host author discussing little-known secrets of Detroit

By: Brendan Losinski | Advertiser Times | Published September 14, 2018

 Local author Karen Dybis will be discussing her new book, “Secret Detroit,” at the Harper Woods Public Library on Wednesday, Sept. 19.

Local author Karen Dybis will be discussing her new book, “Secret Detroit,” at the Harper Woods Public Library on Wednesday, Sept. 19.

Photos provided by Karen Dybis

HARPER WOODS — The Harper Woods Public Library is welcoming people to learn about a few of the well-kept secrets of their community through a book discussion with local author Karen Dybis, as she discusses her new book, “Secret Detroit.”

The program will take place at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 19, at the library, 18601 Harper Ave. Space is limited, so those interested are asked to RSVP by calling (313) 343-2575.

Dybis’ book covers some of the numerous places of interest throughout the Detroit community, particularly those that are obscure or off the beaten path.

“The book looks great; it looks like a fascinating account of things like Ford Park, the Detroit salt mines and the Ford factory,” said Suzanne Kent, the adult services librarian. “It’s called ‘Secret Detroit,’ so maybe there will be a lot of things people didn’t know about before.”

Dybis is a Grosse Pointe Woods resident and is a journalist and freelance writer by trade. Five years ago, she added “author” to her résumé after hearing that a publishing company was looking for writers to put out books on subjects that she had recently covered as a reporter.

“I had done an article on drive-in theaters, and History Press was looking for writers to put something out about those types of theaters,” she said. “I interviewed the owners of a drive-in in Warren and people who experienced it, and I expanded it from there. It was great fun, so I decided to take off and do that. I now have four books total.”

“Secret Detroit” was a subject similarly brought to her attention by a publisher. She proceeded to dive in and start researching places of note from around Detroit.

“‘Secret Detroit,’ like a lot of my books, was something the publisher came up with,” Dybis said. “They create theme books about different cities, and they were looking for a writer for the Detroit area. They hire a lot of travel writers, but a lot of travel writers, I think, were intimidated to tackle lesser-known places in a community they didn’t live in, so a travel writer friend told me about the project and I took it on. I started by making up a list of about 150 places that are lesser-known, weird or unusual, or new and undiscovered. About 90 made it into the book.”

She believes this is a great reference for anyone looking for something to do in Detroit, or a great tool to show people what the city is like.

“It’s a tour book of sorts for either newcomers or people from the area who are looking for new things to try out,” Dybis explained. “To me, this is an almost CliffsNotes version of Detroit’s 300-year history. It’s great if you want to know where artists hang out or where to take out-of-towners. It’s great to have in the car for impromptu trips for grabbing lunch and seeing the sights, or seeing what the city is like.”

Dybis said she was able to discover or rediscover several fascinating locales around Detroit that could be new and exciting for both lifelong residents of southeastern Michigan or people visiting for the first time.

“I like to think of it as a way to put together a custom tour, so you can see where Better Made Potato Chips are made,” she said. “We talk about a lot of fun places, like touring the Ford Piquette Plant; the historical markers along Milwaukee Junction; the revitalized Eastern Market; and the small art park, like the Lincoln Street Art Park. I took my kids on almost all these stops, so I think it’s a very family-friendly guide.”

Dybis will describe several of the book’s entries at the Harper Woods library program and give people a feel for what the book offers.

“I will be giving a photographic tour of the city and covering some of the most fun locations in the book, like the giant cow head seen in the movie ‘8 Mile,’ and going over some of the new things going on in the city. I try to give a nice overview of some of my favorite places and their history.”

This is the second time that Dybis has spoken about one of her books at the Harper Woods library.

“She spoke before about a book she wrote detailing the history of Better Made Potato Chips,” said Kent. “We like her books, she’s a local author, and we feel she touches on something a lot of people can relate to, which is Detroit history and all the things people can do there. She really highlights the wonderful, the weird and the obscure.”

Dybis will be selling copies of “Secret Detroit” at the Harper Woods library program. The library will be hosting a similar program in November for fellow local author Joe Grimm and his book on the history of Faygo Pop.