Saïd and Martha’s Story

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Not long ago, while clearing out my mother’s belongings from her apartment on Centre Avenue, I happened to find two overdue library books. Knowing full well that she would have wanted these to be returned, I walked them over to the Main branch, that same walk that my mother and I would have taken together many times over the years. – Saïd Sayrafiezadeh

In December of 2020, author Saïd Sayrafiezadeh reached out to Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh from his home in New York City. His mother Martha Harris had recently passed away and if there was one place where her legacy would be at home it seemed like the Main Library in Pittsburgh.

Of all the institutions in Pittsburgh, both public and private, the Carnegie Library was the one which figured most prominently in my mother’s and my life.

One of the most enduring memories from my childhood is of my mother sitting on her bed in the morning, reading a few pages of a library book before leaving for work—on her bicycle. It was at the public library where, when I was about ten years old, I got lucky and won a portable radio as part of a reading competition; … where, sitting in the second floor of the main branch, my mother introduced me to the Readers’ Guide to Periodical Literature for a report I was writing for my social studies class at Reizenstein Middle School; where my mother related the story to me that a homeless man had asked if he could enter the library, and the librarian had replied, “This building is for everyone;” where, after my mother retired from CMU, she volunteered for many years reading to the visually impaired; where I would sometimes stroll through the stacks, just to gaze at the spines of my uncle Mark Harris’ novels, and where, years later, I would find my own books on the shelf.

In 2021 the Martha Harris Fund was added to the Library’s list of perpetual endowed funds. Saïd’s thoughtful tribute to his mother helps ensure generation after generation will be able to visit “this building for everyone” to learn, create, aspire and make their own memories. Contact Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh at donors@carnegielibrary.org or 412-622-6276 to learn how you too can leave a tribute or create a lasting family legacy at the Library.

Saïd shares more about his mother and growing up in Pittsburgh in his award-winning memoir, “When Skateboards Will be Free” and short-story “Last Meal at Whole Foods.” Saïd is a playwright and author of short stories and essays. His newest collection of stories, “American Estrangement,” is available for preorder.

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