Former Hyde Park resident’s book inspires citywide storytelling event

By CHRISTOPHER AMATI
Staff Writer

Former Hyde Park resident Karen Roddie has been a Chicagoan since 2004, but has set foot in more places in our city than most natives.

Roddie, who lived in Hyde Park while attending graduate school at the University of Chicago from 2004-2006, has lived in various neighborhoods in the city. Her book, “Chicago in 77: My visits for work, fun and daily life through Chicago’s community areas,” is her chronicle of visiting all 77 of Chicago’s neighborhoods. It has been used as the basis of the Chicago in 77 (Ci77) Project that in turn led to the “I Love Chicago” event happening at Reggie’s Music Joint, 2015 S. State St., Thursday, March 23, at 7 p.m.

“I Love Chicago” will bring people together from all over the city to hear and share stories about the city with fellow Chicagoans they otherwise might not have met.  There will be music by the local band Willie Dynomite.

Roddie said Hyde Park holds a special place in her memories of Chicago and is prominently featured in her book.

“Hyde Park was the first place I ever lived in Chicago; therefore my 10 years living there was the focus of my story in the book,” Roddie said. “So much was different and unique because everything was new, and it is the place where I learned how to live in the city.”

Roddie said Hyde Park definitely has a culture all its own.

“While I lived there, I enjoyed the academic culture of the university, the people, and the architecture,” Roddie said. “The most influential experience was the people I met in grad school at the university, many of whom I am still friends with today. Hyde Park is where I learned how complex the city is and how important it is for any institution to build relationships with members of the community.”

Roddie said the Old Edgebrook was the neighborhood that surprised her the most among all the things that she saw in her journeys through Chicago.

“ My greatest surprise was to discover a neighborhood hidden in the forest preserve,” Roddie said. “It felt as if the area was protected by the forest. I never expected to find something like this in Chicago.”

She said that what makes Chicago different than most other places was the diversity.

“I think the many layers to Chicago is what makes our city unique,” Roddie said. “There are many kinds of communities beyond just the geographic kind. There is the writing community, cooking community, comedy and music scene. There are the different cultures of each Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) train line. Each group is proud of what they do and collectively it makes for a strong city. I was fascinated at how diverse an area could be, yet how similar the ways are in which we all lived. Driving down Milwaukee Avenue from the far north side, which travels through a number of different areas. I saw the types of people and businesses change, yet everyone operated in similar ways: dining out was dining out, shopping was shopping and kids were kids. “

Roddie said during most of her visits she has met friendly and amazing people.

“I planned ‘I Love Chicago’ for the opportunity for Chicagoans from all over the city to meet each other and share what they love about Chicago,” Roddie said.  “’I Love Chicago’ is about encouraging a different narrative in 2017 and showing love to a city we call home. The violence in the city is real, but there are also lots of amazing people doing amazing things and the city is rich with experiences. We may be 77 community areas but we are one city.”

c.amati@hpherald.com