By Jodi Diperna
Pittsburgh Current Senior Conributor
If you’re on my Christmas list, there’s a good chance you’re going to get a book under the tree. Or maybe two. Or three. (Smart money would take the over.) But I do try to make the book fit the person and here are a few ideas so you can get just the right book for just the right reader while supporting local writers in the process. Everybody wins!
For your uncle, so that you can avoid talking politics with over the holidays, sports are a good way to flip the script and find common ground. Pick up a copy of ‘When Pittsburgh Was a Fight Town’ by legendary Pittsburgh sports-writer, Roy McHugh.
For your aunt with whom you also want to avoid talking politics with over the holidays, bond over your shared love of all things Penguins with If These Walls Could Talk: Stories from the Pittsburgh Penguins Ice, Locker Room and Press Box, by the Old-Two-Niner, Phil Bourque with Josh Yohe.
For your cousin who thinks JD Vance speaks for all of Appalachia, pick up one or both of these collections, both from WVU Press, ‘Appalachian Reckoning: A Region Responds to Hillbilly Elegy’ and ‘LGBTQ Poetry and Fiction from Appalachia.’
For your friend who likes Stranger Things, Carnivale and Twin Peaks, ‘All the Names They Used for God,’ Anjali Sachdeva’s collection of short stories are weird and fanciful, aching and wonderful.
For your badass niece, ‘Dominicana’ by Pitt creative writing prof Angie Cruz is a powerful, compelling immigrant story and a coming of age tale.
For your friend, the Social Justice Warrior, help them tap into their righteous humanity with ‘Life Sentences, Stories from Inside an American Prison,’ from the Elsinore Bennu Think Tank
For your dreamy cousin, long-time Pitt Prof Toi Derricotte’s work is so transcendent she passes through artful into the rarified air of artless. Pick up her sweeping collection nominated for the National Book Award for poetry, ‘i: New and Selected Poems.’
For your friend who likes to stay up all night drinking and talking, ‘East Pittsburgh Downlow,’ by Dave Newman is the perfect gift — a wild, tender ride through the mind of a welder, runner, drinker and writer (all the same person!)
For your writer friend, Lori Jakiela’s memoir, ‘Belief Is Its Own Kind of Truth, Maybe,‘ is tender, wistful and periodically laugh out loud funny.
For your thoughtful friend who loves Faulkner ‘Marilou Is Everywhere,’ by Sarah Elaine Smith is the best piece of fiction writing I’ve read in all of 2019. If your friend doesn’t like this book, you should unfriend them IRL.
For everybody. Damon Young writes about fashion and barbershops and poetry and how Pittsburgh kills black folks. And, he does it all with the same wit and grace he brings to VerySmartBrothas. ‘What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Blacker’ is so great you should pick up a copy for yourself as well as the folks on your list.