Writer Josh Barkan in front of the Edgar Thompson Works, U.S. Steel,
Braddock, Pennsylvania. This mill has been in operation since 1872.
Writer Sherrie Flick is best known in Pittsburgh as a master of flash fiction, the author of the novel Reconsidering Happiness (Bison Books, 2009), and the co-director of the beloved Gist Street Reading Series. Though the curtain went down on Gist Street last year (after a triumphant decade), Sherrie has followed that act by co-founding a writer's residency in Braddock, Pennsylvania, a borough just 10 minutes drive from Pittsburgh city limits. Braddock is one of the hardest-hit steel towns of the rust belt, having lost over 90% of its population. Ironically, it is also home of one of the last two working steel mills in Allegheny County. But in recent years, the town has been getting the most attention for its young mayor, who is trying to revive the place by luring artists to fill empty houses and by offering free and cheap industrial spaces to arts organizations.
Today's small press recommendations come from Josh Barkan, the first writer-in-residence hosted by INTO THE FURNACE, Sherrie's new venture. Author of the satirical novel, Blind Speed (Northwestern University Press, 2008), Josh is also a world traveler who calls both New York City and Mexico City home. I haven't yet seen him read, but I did get to meet him briefly when he was marching with a mutual friend in the Occupy Pittsburgh demonstration on October 15.
1. Trophy: A Novel, Michael Griffith (Northwestern University Press)
2. God Bless America: Stories, Steve Almond (Lookout Books)
3. The Convert: A Tale of Exile and Extremism, Deborah Baker (Graywolf Press)
Recommended by Josh Barkan
Author of Blind Speed: A Novel and Before Hiroshima: The Confession of Murayama Kazuo and Other Stories, current writer-in-residence of Into the Furnace in Braddock, PA.
The name of the writers residency, INTO THE FURNACE, is a reference to a 1941 novel set in Braddock called Out of This Furnace. The novel was written by Thomas Bell. For more info on the residency, see: http://intothefurnace.wordpress.com/