Interview with Mary Dixon Lebeau, Author of “Secret Jersey Shore: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful, and Obscure”
Mary Dixon Lebeau, a freelance writer and former reporter and newspaper columnist, is deeply connected with New Jersey's oceanside. The Jersey Shore is the place where her parents met and where she herself was raised. Her experiences, memories, and love for her childhood home has led Lebeau to share its unique and little-known wonders with others in her new book, Secret Jersey Shore: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful, and Obscure. Lebeau published her book in June of 2022 and hopes to give readers a greater and deeper view of what the Jersey Shore has to offer, rather than just its infamous fairs and sandy beaches. The Garden State Woman Education Foundation spoke with Lebeau and learned about the process of writing her book, what she hopes readers will gain, and more.
What made you want to write about the Jersey Shore?
- Lebeau mentioned that she had always wanted to write a book about the Jersey Shore, but her publishers felt that the book was more of a seasonal concept and readers wouldn't purchase it past summer. She instead first published Secret Philadelphia: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful and Obscure in 2018. But through her perspective, and others, she noted, the Jersey Shore is a year-round experience and something Jersey natives are very passionate about. Lebeau explained that the Shore, its salt air and vast oceans, always bring her peace and healing, and never fails to make her feel better. She wanted to be able to dig into the things people don't see. She wanted to share the histories and cultures of the Shore.
What was the process like for writing this book? Did you travel to places specifically for this book?
- Lebeau says she actually visited many of the places mentioned in the book. There were some she couldn't because they were no longer there, such as the Brigantine Castle. Many of the pictures in the book were taken by her husband. But it was difficult, she explained, as she had just finished writing her book when the COVID-19 pandemic began. During the shutdown, her publishers wouldn't be able to publish her book right away. When time came to finally publish Secret Jersey Shore: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful, and Obscure, Lebeau had to revisit the Shore since many things changed after the shutdown. Because businesses closed and hours changed, Lebeau needed to update the information she provided in the book for readers that explain how they can visit those places.
Are you most excited for native New Jersey residents or people from outside of the state to read your book?
- Lebeau began by saying how she had always disliked the MTV reality show Jersey Shore as it doesn't depict a true Jersey Shore experience. She believes that people outside of the state will receive a clearer and more complete look of what the Jersey Shore is like when reading her book. She also believes that those who share her same passion for the Jersey Shore, and others that live in New Jersey, New York, and Philadelphia who frequent the Shore, will get the most out of the book because they will learn new things they were never aware of despite being familiar with the area.
Is there a specific part of the book you are most excited for readers to experience?
- Lebeau is most excited for readers to experience the whole book. She explained that she learned a lot herself about the south shore while writing. Just like Lebeau had learned more about the Jersey Shore, she is also very excited for readers to learn new facts as well. She says, "When we go to the shore year after year, we think we know. But there is so much more going on that we can find out." Lebeau also mentioned that the Shore is not just a place to visit when its sunny, and she hopes for others to see that there is so much to do even on a rainy day.
What is one thing you want your audience to take away from this book?
- One thing Lebeau wants readers to take away is that the Jersey Shore is a very special place and experience for people. Like she mentioned previously, the first reaction of her publishers, who are located in St. Louis, Missouri, was that a book about the Jersey Shore was too seasonal. But she disagrees with this standpoint. "The Jersey Shore is an all-encompassing experience," she says. "Just like the ocean, it's always there, it's always been there, it's constant, it's going to outlive us." She would like all of her readers to discover something on their own and look at the Shore with new eyes.
If you've ever been wanting to visit the Jersey Shore, or simply seek to learn more about this coastal region, then Lebeau's book is the perfect escape to New Jersey's oceanside! Secret Jersey Shore: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful, and Obscure is available for purchase online and in stores.
When you subscribe to the blog, we will send you an e-mail when there are new updates on the site so you wouldn't miss them.