Books

Recalling Poet Muriel Rukeyser and her Work on the Hawk’s Nest Tunnel Disaster

When she was just 23, poet Muriel Rukeyser drove from her home in New York City to the hollers of West Virginia, fueled by a desire to investigate and document the Hawk’s Nest Tunnel mining disaster. By the time she arrived in 1936, many of the men who had dug…

Looking for Belonging Underscores Kothari’s “I Brake for Moose and Other Stories”

With hate crimes up nationally according to the FBI, those of Indian descent haven’t been spared. Locally, a 2016 beating incident at a South Hills Red Robin was deemed “ethnic intimidation,” while the 2017 murder of Indian engineer Srinivas Kuchibhotla in Olathe, Kansas drew international attention. These are but two…

A Terrific Look at the Sophisticated History of Black Pittsburgh

“Smoketown” is a gift to Pittsburgh on a number of levels. When an accomplished national journalist and author turns in a deeply researched and gracefully written work about your town, that’s a win. Beyond that, Mark Whitaker, a former editor of Newsweek, gives Pittsburghers the gift of enhanced understanding of…

The Perfect Winter Blend

by John Allison
I loved reading “The Plot to Scapegoat Russia” by Dan Kovalik, a lawyer with United Steelworkers of America in Pittsburgh, even though I disagreed with just about every page of it. We all benefit from hearing sustained arguments by serious people who challenge our beliefs and assumptions. In the end,…

Living in Harm’s Way

by John Allison
Lynda Schuster has had quite a life. now safely squared away in Squirrel Hill, she spent the 1980s and ’90s in one danger zone after another. She reported on wars, insurrections and misery in Latin America, the Middle East and Africa for The Wall Street Journal and Christian Science Monitor.…

Short Takes: “Shopping Mall” “North and Central”

by John Allison
Matthew Newton lets you know by Page 10 that he was diagnosed with obsessive-​compulsive disorder as a teenager. These days, he’s a productive and well-​adjusted married man and dad, doing great work at the Carnegie Museum of Art, and his skills as an inquisitive writer and thinker are evident from…

“The Slide” chronicles the tough years of the Pittsburgh Pirates

by Fred Shaw
For some locals, October 17, 1979 was the date parents all over southwestern PA let their kids stay up late. That night baseball fans young and old got to witness Willie “Pops” Stargell homering against the Baltimore Orioles, propelling the Pittsburgh Pirates to their most-​recent World Series title. The sound…

Aaron Smith Takes on Big Issues in Readable “Primer”

by Fred Shaw
Dualism, a philosophical concept, asks thinkers to consider the relationship between mind and body, often leading to inquiries such as: What is the self? What is consciousness? Do the physical and mental influence one another? Plato and Aristotle pondered the topic centuries ago, their questions often leading to more questions…

Summer Reading List

by John Allison
The forces of the universe have a dark sense of humor. Just weeks before the publication of The Schenley Experiment, Jake Oresick’s revealing history of Pittsburgh’s first public high school, PMC Property Group began to advertise Schenley Apartments, which occupy the former school. “A truly unique historic property modernized to…

Short Takes: “Leave Me” “Perpetual Carnival”

by John Allison
Pittsburghers could read “Leave Me” for the same reasons they’d see a movie filmed and set here. It’s a kick to see the city as a backdrop, collecting references to your favorite coffee shop (Commonplace in Squirrel Hill), local slogans (“I Bleed Black and Gold”) and outright praise (“she stared…

A Well-​Woven Contemporary Tale

by John Allison
For his second act, Pittsburgh novelist Jacob Bacharach has turned in another work of enormously entertaining literary fiction set in Pittsburgh. It’s less cosmic than his debut, the 2014 sci-​fi sendup “A Bend in the World,” but equally peppered with highbrow cultural references, trenchant social observations and turns of phrase…

Setting the Steelers Standards

by Fred Shaw
Growing up in a local mill town in the late 1970’s, Steelers’ Super Bowl victories seemed like a birthright. For my generation, it takes little to rattle-​off the roster from the ‘79 season, the last of that era’s championship teams. And while the exploits of future Hall-​of-​Famers Lynn Swann and…

Six Books for Your Winter Reading List

by John Allison
This issue, we take up half-​a-​dozen new books in three groupings: literary works from two creative writing teachers, Pittsburgh sports history from two prominent national writers, and the latest from two great local legal minds.

Drue Heinz winner brings humanity to adversity

by Fred Shaw
When Melissa Yancy describes aspects of facial reconstructions, fetal surgery and kidney transplants in her short-​story collection Dog Years (University of Pittsburgh Press), she writes knowingly, not gratuitously. The 2016 Drue Heinz Award winner and Phoenix native, comes honestly to this perspective as a fundraiser advocating for health-​care causes. And…

The Challenge of Fighting Back

by John Allison
Reading the latest novel by Stewart O’Nan, the Pittsburgh-​born writer who boomeranged home several years ago, is like watching the performance of an experienced athlete who makes it all look so easy. “City of Secrets” is his 16th novel since 1994, and the first to take place entirely outside of…
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