Literary City Spotlight: Detroit
As the largest city in Michigan, Detroit has become a unique and flourishing haven for art, literature, and culture. In fact, some of today’s most notable poets—like Tyehimba Jess, Carolyn Forché, and Victoria Chang—hail from this creative and bustling area. In addition to enjoying sites like the Detroit Opera House and the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, visitors can celebrate literary inspiration and achievement at nearly every turn. This list includes some of the city’s most beloved, writerly landmarks.
1. Book Suey
Though it’s been open since just 2017, Book Suey already counts among Detroit’s most popular bookshops. The worker-owned, cooperative store has an innovative approach to not only its business practices but also its selection and methods of building community. The store is known for featuring diverse authors and celebrating local talents across genres. Above all, Book Suey emphasizes connection. Previous events have included author talks, zine-making workshops, book clubs, and even a Writers on Wheels bike ride.
When you’re writing on your own, it can be difficult to find inspiration. The Detroit Writing Room eases this challenge by providing writing groups, coaches and mentoring, and a gorgeous space. Members and guests can take workshops in poetry, fiction, nonfiction, screenwriting, writing for children, and even photography. Alongside this vast range, writers can also receive coaching and help with marketing themselves, with courses covering everything from email newsletters to website design.
3. KAN Books
KAN Books prides itself on centering “revolutionary reading.” The store makes featuring emerging writers of color part of its core mission and regularly hosts events to celebrate Black culture and give back to community causes. Share your poems at an open mic night, participate in a drum circle, or watch visual storytelling unfold at the film series. KAN Books also collaborates with other organizations and businesses. For example, Friday night music exchanges—which teach the basics of DJ’ing and invite local emcees—are in partnership with Operational Rebel Community Radio.
4. Cafe 1923
Cafe 1923, a trendy and cozy coffeehouse, is one of the best places in the Detroit area to read or write. Lounge on comfortable couches and borrow a book from the space’s treasured floor-to-ceiling bookshelves.
Signal-Return, an organization and space “dedicated to preserving and teaching traditional letterpress printing,” is home to Motor Signal Reading Series, a Detroit literary tradition and community fixture since 2014. Along with this regular event, Signal-Return teaches letterpress workshops and highlights works from area artists.
Detroit Public Library stands out as the largest public library in the state and a historical site. The branch’s main location, located at 5201 Woodward Avenue, was built in 1921 and funded in part by Andrew Carnegie. It’s known for its ornate Italian Renaissance style, making it a striking photo backdrop.