WORK IN PROGRESS–excuse our edits!

This literature section will list all literary texts used / studied by the Secret Pittsburgh sections. This be a resource for interested readers to find more texts about Pittsburgh, history, spaces, and literary representation.

This is an (informal) annotated list, describing what type/the general content/what type of reader may be interested in each text. Like the guidebook itself, this is an ever growing and collaborative endeavor.


Ahmed, Tanzila. “Punk-Drunk Love.” Love, InshAllah: The Secret Love Lives of American Muslim Women. Ed. Ayesha Mattu and Nura Maznavi. Berkeley: Publishers Group West, 2012. 58-73. Print. One of many personal perspectives in this anthology, this story tells the interesting intersection between Islam, love, and the punk-rock scene. This may not seem to be a common combination, but in this story Tanzila tries to balance all of her identities while deciding what to do with her feelings for the head of a punk band. Above all of this, “Punk-Drunk Love” is a story about human experience and the need that we all feel for affection and how we come to understand ourselves.

Bell, Thomas. Out of This Furnace. Pittsburgh: U of Pittsburgh, 1976. Print. This timeless novel portrays the life of first and second generation European immigrants working in the steel mills and blast furnaces of Pittsburgh during the height of its industrial power. It highlights the struggles of laborers fighting for unionization and better wages. Historically accurate and educational, but with a very emotional appeal to the plight of the steelworker and their family, this novel with a stirring cast of characters is fit for anyone interested in working class literature and history.

Borges, Jorge Luis. The Library of Babel. N.p.: n.p., 1941. Print. This short story was originally published in 1941, but translated into English in 1962. The speaker describes an alternate universe, one that is entirely comprised of texts. The key imagery is made up of hexagonal rooms that are stacked to the brim with books that outline the major necessities to life. The text is very theoretical and does not represent the true form of a library today, however it is an interesting read for someone who would like to potentially reconsider the purpose of the library in today’s society or engage in a thought experiment.

Brown, Mark M. Cathedral of Learning: Concept, Design, Construction. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh, 1987.  In this booklet, the University Art Gallery does a short historical piece honoring the Cathedral of Learning. The piece delves into the history of the Cathedral. It touches on the concept it was striving for, how it was designed and the construction. Bowman’s financial plans to not take up more debt than necessary to build the Cathedral are illustrated and it goes into the Cathedral as a staple or emblem of the University. It is described how the Cathedral has upheld it’s original goals to symbolize higher learning by reaching higher heights and how it has therefore become an architecturally dominant landmark in Oakland.

 Calvino, Italo. A General in the Library. New York: Overlook, n.d. Print. This short story speaks on the history of libraries in times of war. Calvino critiques the effects of military control over what should be public knowledge. He points out the flaws of the government and their fear of a knowledgable, educated people. If you’re interested in a pointed critique about such a government or the role of libraries (especially during fictional wartime), A General in the Library will be a good, quick read for you.

 Chamoiseau, Patrick. Texaco: A  Novel.  Translated by Rose-Myriam Rejouis and Val Vinokurov. New York: Vintage International, 1998.  In this 1992 novel (first translated into English in 1997), we find an urban planner encountering the inhabitants of a shantytown called Texaco on the island of Martinique. He’s met with some resistance, as the community knows he comes to decide whether the City will incorporate or raze their home. To convince him their homes are worth saving, they turn to the storytelling powers of the shantytown’s creator, Marie-Sophie. Will the story of Texaco’s founding, and of Marie-Sophie’s lifelong journey towards this home, be convincing enough to prevent the destruction of the illegal neighborhood ? Although the multilayered quality of this narrative can be difficult, readers interested in the morals of urban planning, subverting social injustice, spunky female narrators, interesting textual forms, and Caribbean literature will find it worthwhile.

Chilcote, Lee. Turning Trash into Treasure, Creative Reuse Movement Boosts Urban Economies. Michigan: The Line, 2013. This is an article about the positives that come from  creative reuse centers in major cities all over the country. It includes examples focused on the economic benefits brought about by this movement. This article is good for anyone curious about the effects of creative reuse organizations and how it impacts the overall community. Additionally, this article is useful for convincing people to contribute to these reuse centers as opposed to throwing out their old items.

Curtis, Edward. Muslims in America: A Short History. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009. A historical text that details the history of Muslims in the United States from colonial America to the post-9/11 world.  This is an incredibly rich history and is one that is often skipped in the textbooks. Muslims have been an important part of our community for generations and their stories should not be forgotten. For those who love to read about history, society, or religion this should be a good pickup.

Drew, Walter and Rankin, Baji. Promoting Creativity for Life Using Open-Ended Materials. Creative Arts, 2004. This article summarizes the importance of creative thinking emphasized at a young age. Within the article, the authors identify seven key principles for using open-ended (creative, non-restricting) materials in early childhood classrooms. These principles are supported by personal experiences and educators’ stories. This article is useful for any educators looking to incorporate new curriculum into their classrooms to induce creative thinking. Additionally, it would be useful for parents as a way to emphasize the importance of creativity within an academic setting.

Glasco, Laurence A. and Christopher Rawson. August Wilson: Pittsburgh Places in his life and his plays. Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation, 2011. If you’re looking for a good history read then check out this short but informative book edited by Laurence A. Glasco and Christopher Rawson. Although the main portion of the book is dedicated to a descriptive walking tour of the sites (imagined and real) from Wilson’s life and plays, the beginning section includes short testimonials from Wilson’s contemporaries and a biographic essay. This essay details the life of August Wilson, his childhood, growing up in the Hill District, his influences leading up to his untimely death. Anyone interested in great literature would enjoy this quick biography, and anyone interested in walking through Wilson’s neighborhood would find the second portion essential for a self-guided walking tour.

Macy, Sue, Wheels of Change: How Women Rode the Bicycle to Freedom (With a Few Flat Tires Along the Way).  Washington D.C.: National Geographic Society, 2011. This Young Adult nonfiction provides readers with a brief history of the bicycle, as well as information on how women in the saw bikes as a ticket to freedom.  There’s also plenty of details about famous cyclists through out history, examples of literature and music related to cycling, cycling slang, and advertisements containing bicycles.  Anyone interested in learning how the bicycle came to be what it is today will enjoy this piece.

National Negro Opera House. Documentary. Writer/producer, David Solomon. Videographer/Editor Frank Caloiero. Editor Amy Groye. Graphic Design deborah Saus. WQED, Pittsburgh. This documentary depicts the conservationist efforts of the Young Preservationists Association of Pittsburgh. The house, as seen in the documentary, is in a state of disrepair. Nonetheless, this documentary details the many stories that make this house a historical landmark and cultural landmark for the black community of Pittsburgh. Home to the first National Negro Opera Company, the walls of the house have seen a number of stories ranging from a bet to win the Steelers to Mary Cardwell Dawson’s great success with her opera company.

Nicholson, Simon. The Theory of Loose Parts, An important principle for design methodology. Studies in Design Education Craft & Technology, Vol 4. No. 2. Web, 1971In this article, Nicholson explains the Theory of Loose parts. In summary, the theory states that the more moveable, varied objects children are given for play, the more their creative thinking will be stimulated. While this article is a great read for anyone, it may be especially interesting to teachers of parents of young children.

Standiford, Les. Meet You in Hell: Andrew Carnegie, Henry Clay Frick and the Bitter Partnership That Transformed America. New York: Broadway Books, 2005. This unbiased story of two of the most influential men in the history of the city of Pittsburgh is a great read. Standiford captures the rags to riches tales of both Carnegie and Frick as well as stories of mill workers and how their friendship eventually dissolved due to business opinion differences. This is a fairly easy read and a great book for anyone interested in history or Pittsburgh or Pittsburgh history.

Sweterlitsch, Thomas. Tomorrow and Tomorrow. New York: Berkley Books, 2014. This novel is a futuristic cyberpunk novel. The novel’s main character, Dominic, follows the protagonist role of an anti-hero, as he has some major personality flaws. This novel explores corruption in the digital age and Dominic’s quest to uncover the truth about a mysterious murder and cover-up. Readers who like sci-fi, murder mysteries, or any type of literature set in Pittsburgh will want to read this.

University of Pittsburgh Neighborhood Alliance. Pittsburgh Neighborhood Atlas: Oakland. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh, 1977. This piece which is essentially a neighborhood census mixed with atlas features a vast amount of data about the city of Pittsburgh. This particular section of the Atlas features Oakland in 1977 and describes some of the demographics, satisfaction survey results as well as crime rates in the area. The data which was gathered by several surveys to locals in Oakland gives us a peek into the status of Oakland during that time.

Wells, H.G. The Wheels of Chance. New York: The MacMillan Company, 1896. The Wheels of Chance is a novel follows Mr. Hoopdriver, a “draper’s assistant” in London on his bicycle ride around the Southern Coast on his holiday. He keeps running into a striking young lady having difficulties with a dastardly man…intrigue, love interest, and a daring bicycle escape ensues. It was written in the time period where cycling first became popular and showed how the bicycle offered a new mode of travel and socialization.  Readers who like to see history displayed through an interesting narrative would enjoy this novel.

Westphal, Bertrand. Geocriticism: Real and Fictional Spaces. Trans. Robert T. Tally Jr. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011. Westphal’s idea of Geocriticism is useful for figuring out how texts and the real world connect. It helps study how literature can represent a given space and how space interacts with texts. Readers who want to look deeper into the setting of different pieces of literature and connect it to the real world may be interested in this work.

Wideman, John Edgar. Damballah. (The Homewood Books.) University of Pittsburgh Press, 1992. Print. The Homewood Books are a collection of books written by John Edgar Wideman, who was raised in Homewood, Pittsburgh. His writing, as quoted from The Homewood Books introduction, “offer[s] a continuous investigation, from many angles, not so much of a physical location, Homewood, … but of a culture, a way of seeing and being seen.” Damballah is a short story collection that takes readers along in a series of stories about the intertwining lives of Homewood’s residents. Inside the book you’ll find stories including the characters Reba Love Jackson, Elizabeth, and Tommy.

Wilson, August. Jitney. New York, NY: The Overlook Press, 1979. As the eighth play in his Pittsburgh Cycle, August Wilson set the play in his home neighborhood of the Hill District, during a period of urban renewal. His piece puts a real face on gentrification and the people that experience it. There are five main characters, as well as secondary characters that come and go in the play, that experience this gentrification in their community as it threatens their livelihood: working at a jitney station. Readers that enjoy a heavy topic fused with historic information would love this play!

It's a beautiful day to explore the neighborhood

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