The Black community in Pittsburgh has produced more than its share of renowned, influential and highly respected authors over the course of the 20th century, from John Edgar Wideman to August Wilson and Sharon G. Flake. That the tradition shows no signs of slowing down in the 21st century is made evident by the works of these five contemporary Black authors currently living in Pittsburgh. Get to know their humor, fiction, memoir and poetry by checking out their works from your local Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh location!
Poet Cameron Barnett grew up in Pittsburgh and now teaches at one of his alma maters, Falk Laboratory School, as well as being the current editor for the Pittsburgh Poetry Journal. His first book of poems, “The Drowning Boy’s Guide to Water,” finds compassion in search for identity, using clear language that limns the connection between the interior self and the self that is created through culture, assumptions, and, often, the mental and physical violence of racism. It is available for checkout through the Library in print format.
Brian Broome’s new book “Punch Me Up to the Gods: A Memoir” moves through his childhood in Ohio, navigating coming of age as a Black and gay boy, and therefore, an outsider. Told thematically instead of linearly, Broome’s story is full of lush description and tender, emotionally resonant moments situated within trauma. It is available for checkout in print, as an eBook and eAudiobook on OverDrive/Libby.
Yona Harvey’s first poetry collection, “Hemming the Water,” was published in 2013, winning the 2014 Kate Tufts Discovery Award, but she’s also known for being one of the first two Black women to write for Marvel Comics in both “World of Wakanda” and “We Are the Streets,” a Black Panther & Crew collection. Her lyrical poems, inspired by another Pittsburgher, jazz artist Mary Lou Williams, delve into the ecstatic and quotidian experience of being a woman, while in superhero narrative, Harvey cannily investigates the ways that love and violence affect our choices and paths in life. These books are available for checkout in print format.
Florida native Deesha Philyaw now lives and works here in Pittsburgh for the time being. With her 2020 short story collection, “The Secret Lives of Church Ladies,” Philyaw has found wide acclaim and won numerous accolades from the literary community, due to her closely observed and felt character studies of Black women. The titular Church Ladies are complex, funny, sexy, and their worlds are full of the texture of real life – the revelations and triumphs that are experienced every day. It is available for checkout in print and as an eAudiobook on Hoopla and OverDrive/Libby.
Damon Young grew up in East Liberty and Penn Hills. In his award-winning first book, “What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Blacker: A Memoir in Essays,” Young uses a relaxed but pointed dark humor to reflect on his experience of Blackness and masculinity in America. Personal stories deftly combine absurdity and observation to create a nuanced view of modern cultural life. It is available for checkout in print, as an eBook on OverDrive/Libby and Hoopla, and as an eAudiobook on OverDrive/Libby and Hoopla.
Whether you are now curious enough about these five authors to dive into their books, or if you want to catch up with another favorite author, remember – Summer Reading is for everyone!
This season, we’re asking the community to come together to encourage Pittsburghers to Read Five! Patrons of all ages can take part by logging their reads on paper or with the Beanstack App. You can learn more about the Summer Reading program and Beanstack here.
Need help finding your next favorite author, series or title this summer? Be matched with your next great read by visiting carnegielibrary.org/match!
You can sign up for a free library card here. If you are new to our eResources, check out these tutorial videos on how to get started. If you have any additional questions, you can contact a librarian through Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. You can also call us at 412.622.3114 or email us at email@example.com.