When her mother becomes ill with cancer, Lori Jakiela moves back to Pittsburgh from New York City to take care of her, and to try to navigate a new future while living in her childhood home.
The environments of our childhood – the smells, tastes, family and friends, and familiar streets and buildings – indelibly influence the person we become. And those environments and events will look very different with the hindsight of years and knowledge.
In these memoirs, we as readers can immerse ourselves in the lives of real people who are looking back on the Pittsburgh of their past and revealing how these personal versions of our city have shaped and changed them.
This is by no means the definitive list of Pittsburgh memoirs – you can browse more in our catalog.
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A multilayered memoir of basketball, family, home, love, and race, John Edgar Wideman’s “Hoop Roots” brings “a touch of Proust to the blacktop” (Time) as it tells of the author’s love for a game he can no longer play. Beginning with the scruffy backlot playground he discovered in Pittsburgh some fifty years ago, Wideman works magical riffs that connect black music, language, culture, and sport. His voice modulates from nostalgic to outraged, from scholarly to streetwise, in describing the game that has sustained his passion throughout his life.
Abeer Hoque is a Bangladeshi girl growing up in a small sunlit town, where the red clay earth, corporal punishment and running games are facts of life. At thirteen she moves with her family to suburban Pittsburgh and finds herself surrounded by clouded skies and high schoolers who speak in movie quotes and pop culture slang. Arresting and beautifully written, with poems and weather conditions framing each chapter, “Olive Witch” is an intimate memoir about taking the long way home. You can also check out this title as eBook on OverDrive/Libby, as eAudio on OverDrive/Libby or as eAudio on Hoopla.
Through brightly colored art, Santoro recalls his Pittsburgh neighborhood and the story of his parents and brings these memories to bear on the present day.
With humor, Gene Kail details his experience growing up as part of a Lebanese-American community in Pittsburgh.
As part of the Westinghouse Bulldogs football team, John M. Brewer, Jr. endured violence and injustice and he tells his story in this memoir.
For Damon Young, existing while Black is an extreme sport. The act of possessing black skin while searching for space to breathe in America is enough to induce a ceaseless state of angst where questions such as “How should I react here, as a professional black person?” and “Will this white person’s potato salad kill me?” are forever relevant. “What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Blacker” chronicles Young’s efforts to survive while battling and making sense of the various neuroses his country has given him. You can also check out this title as eAudio on Hoopla, as eAudio on OverDrive/Libby or as eBook on OverDrive/Libby.
Sarah Valentine grew up in the suburbs of Pittsburgh thinking she was white, and as a young adult learned that her father was a Black man, causing her to wrestle with her identity and ask hard questions about the secrecy of her family. You can also check out this title as eBook on OverDrive/Libby, as eAudio on OverDrive/Libby or as eAudio on Hoopla.
The son of an Iranian-born father and American Jewish mother, both devoted to the socialist cause, Sayrafiezadeh grows up in Pittsburgh trying to reconcile his love for pop culture with his family’s ideals. You can also check out this title as eBook on OverDrive/Libby.