Black Pittsburgh authors you should know

Black Pittsburgh authors you should know
click to enlarge Damon Young - CP PHOTO: JARED WICKERHAM

CP Photo: Jared Wickerham

Damon Young

Yona Harvey's list of writing achievements is lengthy: she is one of the first Black women to write for Marvel Comics, and her works of poetry have won numerous awards, including the Kate Tufts Discovery Award for her first poetry collection, Hemming the Water. She is an assistant professor at the University of Pittsburgh, and has taught creative writing workshops with outlets like Creative Nonfiction, among others.

Her second poetry collection, You Don’t Have to Go to Mars for Love, is set to release in September via Four Way Books. Until then, browse her other works such as Marvel’s World of Wakanda with Ta-Nehisi Coates and Roxane Gay.
Brothers and Keepers by John Edgar Wideman
John Edgar Wideman was born in Washington, D.C., but his family relocated to Pittsburgh just before he turned one. Wideman grew up in Homewood, and that became the setting for many of his works of fiction, such as his acclaimed Homewood trilogy Hiding Place(1981), Sent for You Yesterday (1983), and the short-story collection Damballah. Wideman excelled academically and was one of a few Black students to enroll at the University of Pennsylvania, after being offered the Benjamin Franklin Scholarship.

Wideman has written almost 20 books, both fiction and nonfiction, and is the
only writer to have been awarded the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction twice. First for his novel Sent for You Yesterday in 1984 and again in 1990 for Philadelphia Fire.
Brothers and Keepers is his 1984 memoir about the
contrasts between him, an Ivy League-educated author, and his street-wise brother who is serving time for murder.

What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Blacker by Damon Young
Damon Young is the cofounder of Very Smart Brothas, a blog that offers opinions, cultural criticism, and news through a Black lens. For Young, just existing as a Black person is an activity that needs constant attention and in his debut memoir, What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Blacker, he chronicles his "efforts to survive while battling and making sense of the various neuroses his country has given him."

This Juneteenth, White Whale Bookstore is hosting Young and Deesha Philyaw (see below) for a book reading and conversation via Zoom. Signed copies of their books are available through White Whale's website.

The Secret Lives of Church Ladies by Deesha Philyaw
Deesha Philyaw's writes about race, gender, parenting, and culture, and her works have been published in The New York Times, The Washington Post, McSweeney’s, The Rumpus, and Brevity, among others. In December, Philyaw published TENDER ​​a literary anthology & book of spells: evidence with artist vanessa german, to give a voice to over 15 Black femme writers and visual artists. For some of the women, it was their first time being published.

In September Philyaw releases her first solo novel, The Secret Lives of Church Ladies. Over nine stories, Philyaw features "four generations of characters grappling with who they want to be in the world, caught as they are between the church’s double standards and their own needs and passions."

The Skin I'm In by Sharon Flake
Sharon Flake was born in Philadephia but settled in Pittsburgh after earning her BA in English from the University of Pittsburgh. She got a job working in foster care after graduation and eventually became part of the public relations staff at the University of Pittsburgh Press. It was while working there that Flake wrote her bestselling debut young adult novel, The Skin I’m In. The novel was well-received, earning Flake a Detroit Free Library Author of the Year Award, the Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award for New Talent, the YWCA Racial Justice Award and was named one of the Bank Street College of Education Best Children’s Books of the Year, among others.


Since then, Flake has published 10 more YA novels, almost all dealing with 

the struggles of teenagers and young people of color.
click to enlarge Brian Broome - CP PHOTO: JARED WICKERHAM

CP Photo: Jared Wickerham

Brian Broome

More Black Pittsburgh authors to be aware of:
Toi Derricotte has written multiple memoirs and collections of poetry, most notably The Black Notebooks in 1997. Through the eyes of a light-skinned Black woman, Derricotte gives an interior examination of race that "challenges all our preconceived notions of what it means to be black or white, and what it means to be human."

Brian Broome holds a BFA in Creative Writing from Chatham University and is a K. Leroy Irvis Fellow at the University of Pittsburgh. His work has been published in The Guardian, Creative Nonfiction, Public Source, and more. He is currently working on an upcoming book of essays about Black masculinity. You can read a sample of his work in this 2019 story he wrote for Pittsburgh City Paper after the acquittal of the police officer who killed Antwon Rose II.

Marcel Walker focuses on graphic prose, illustration, creative writing, and photography. He created, wrote, and illustrated his own comic book series, Hero Corp., International, where the main character is a Black superhero.
Christiane Dolores' work is rooted in cultural questioning. She looks at what she calls "
social-cultural anthropology" through textual, visual, and musical pieces.

Terrance Hayes
received
 his MFA from the University of Pittsburgh in 1997 and
is a 2014 MacArthur Fellow. His sixth poetry collection, American Sonnets for My Past And Future Assassin was a finalist for the National Book Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, the TS Eliot Prize, and the Brooklyn Public Library’s Literary Prize for Fiction & Poetry, among others. To Float In The Space Between: Drawings and Essays in Conversation with Etheridge Knight, his 2018 essay collection, was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and winner of the Poetry Foundation’s 2019 Pegasus Award for Poetry Criticism.
Christina Springer dabbles in many artistic mediums such as sculpture, textile design, and paint. In 2018, she released The Splooge Factory, a
collection of poetry that came from her experiences as the fill-in receptionist at an "adult services" massage parlor in Pittsburgh.
Who are we missing? Reach out to jsnowden@pghcitypaper.com