806 Western Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15233

Lauded Author Porochista Khakpour Debuts Manuscript

City of Asylum (2017)

Porochista Khakpour

Friday, April 28th
8:00 pm

Award-winning author Porochista Khakpour (Iran) will present her forthcoming work, Sick: A Life of Lyme, Love, Illness, and Addiction. The book is being published by Harper in 2018, and this is the first time it will be presented by the author.

Best known for her groundbreaking works of fiction, Porochista breaks new ground with this memoir of chronic illness, repeated misdiagnosis, and addiction. Her book feels especially timely in the context of the conflict over the Affordable Healthcare Act.

Porochista Khakpour

Porochista’s previous novel The Last Illusion was a 2014 “Best Book of the Year” according to NPR, Kirkus, Buzzfeed, Popmatters, Electric Literature, and more. Her first novel Sons and Other Flammable Objects was 2007’s California Book Award winner in “First Fiction,” one of the Chicago Tribune’s “Fall’s Best,” and a New York Times “Editor’s Choice.” Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Wall Street Journal, Al Jazeera America and many other publications around the world.

Porochista’s visit to City of Asylum was made possible by author Mia Alvar, who read at COA in 2015 and is a member of our national Advisory Board.

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Did you know that there is a restaurant in City of Asylum @ Alphabet City? During these events, Alphabet City will be set up so that you can have dinner during the event (or simply order drinks).

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An Evening of Poetry on April 22

Independent Bookstore Day

Join City Books in celebration of National Poetry Month on Saturday, April 22 at 7:00 pm when we host two of Pittsburgh best local poets.


Jennifer Jackson BerryJennifer Jackson Berry’s first full length collection of poetry The Feeder was released from YesYes Books in December 2016. The manuscript was offered publication from the 2015 Pamet River Prize finalist list. She is also the author of the chapbooks When I Was a Girl (Sundress Publications 2014) and Nothing But Candy (Liquid Paper Press 2003). She is the Editor-in-Chief of Pittsburgh Poetry Review and Assistant Editor of WomenArts Quarterly Journal. She is a proud member of the Madwomen in the Attic and lives in Pittsburgh.

Jay CarsonJay Carson holds a Doctor of Arts degree from Carnegie Mellon University and taught at Robert Morris University for many years, where he was a faculty advisor to the student literary journal, Rune. Now a full-time writer, Jay is the author of a chapbook, Irish Coffee, and a longer book of poetry, The Cinnamon of Desire. He has published more than 80 poems in local and national journals, magazines, and collections, including Connecticut Review, Folio, The Fourth River, Edison Literary Review, Louisville Review, and Southern Indiana Review.

Mardi Gras at City Books on February 28th

Celebrate Mardi Gras with Literature!

Join City Books on Tuesday, February 28th from 7:00-9:00 pm for an energetic evening of language and poetry with Marc Nieson and Adriana E. Ramirez.

Marc NiesonMarc Niesson is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and NYU Film School. His background includes children’s theatre, cattle chores, and a season with a one-ring circus. His memoir, Schoolhouse: Lessons on Love & Landscape, was released from Ice Cube Press in 2016. He’s won a Raymond Carver Short Story Award, Pushcart Prize nominations, and been noted in Best American Essays. He teaches at Chatham University, edits fiction for The Fourth River, and is at work on a new novel, Houdini’s Heirs.

Adriana E RamirezAdriana E. Ramírez is a Mexican-Colombian writer based in Pittsburgh. She won the inaugural PEN/Fusion Emerging Writers Prize in 2015 for her novella-length work of nonfiction, Dead Boys, and in 2016 was named Critic at Large for the Los Angeles Times Book Section. Her work has appeared in the Los Angeles Review of Books, Guernica/PEN America, Literary Hub, Convolution, and on She was featured in the2014 Legends of Poetry Slam Showcase and in TEDxHouston, as well as in the 2016 Three Rivers Arts Festival. Her debut full-length work of nonfiction, The Violence, is forthcoming from Scribner.

See you at City Books for both readings…

City Books Invites You to Plays-in-Progress: Staged Readings

Plays In Progress

Join City Book this Saturday, February 11, from 7:00-9:00 pm for an evening of staged dramatic readings from five Pittsburgh-area playwrights. The event is free.

A staged reading is a performance of a play without costumes or sets, voiced by actors while seated or moving only minimally. The stage directions are read aloud by a narrator. The purpose of a staged reading is to provide the writer or director insight into the effectiveness of the drama while it’s being developed. Audience feedback after the show is an integral part of the process. Celebrate Valentine’s Day a little early and experience the collaborative energy of drama as it’s made. Please see the City Books website for bios of the playwrights.

Award-winning Chatham University novelist Marc Nieson Debuts Memoir

City of Asylum (12th Year)

Marc Nieson

Friday, December 9th
8:00 pm

City of Asylum @ Alphabet City
40 W North Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15212

“Someone once told me that School and Life were different; in school they give you the lessons before the test, in life it’s the other way around.“

Marc Nieson, Schoolhouse: Lessons on Love + Landscape

Join us on Friday, December 9th for a reading by long-time friend of City of Asylum, Chatham professor and author Marc Nieson. We are honored to host a reading of his newly published book Schoolhouse: Lessons on Love + Landscape, in which he explores love, identity, and writing during his time in Iowa.

Structured like a schoolhouse primer, Marc’s personal and introspective memoir examines his life subject by subject. Each subject – from “Geography” to “History” to “What I Did On My Summer Vacation” – is a chapter describing his life-changing experience as part of the University of Iowa’s intensive writers’ retreat.

Marc will be joined by visiting City of Asylum writer-in-residence Ukamaka Olisakwe (Nigeria) from the University of Iowa’s International Writing Program.

Marc NiesonMarc Nieson is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and NYU Film School. In the 1990s he worked with the International Writing Program, and is thrilled to be joining their ranks again for this reading. His memoir, Schoolhouse: Lessons on Love & Landscape just released from Ice Cube Press. ( He’s won a Raymond Carver Short Story Award, Pushcart Prize nominations, and been noted in Best American Essays. He teaches at Chatham University, edits fiction for The Fourth River, and is at work on a new novel, Houdini’s Heirs.

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Do animals have a sense of humor? Find out on November 5th at Alphabet City

City of Asylum (12th Year)

In partnership with the Cultural Services of the French Embassy

Vinciane Despret

Saturday, November 5th
8:00 pm

City of Asylum @ Alphabet City
40 W North Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15212

What Would Animals Say...Do apes really know how to ape? Do animals form same-sex relations? Can animals create art? Are these even the right way to ask the questions?

Vinciane’s book, What Would Animals Say If We Asked The Right Questions?, poses twenty-six such questions that stretch our preconceived ideas about what animals do, what they think about and what they want.
In an abecedarium of twenty-six chapters, Vinciane Despret argues that behaviors we identify as separating humans from animals do not actually properly belong to humans. She does so by exploring incredible and often funny adventures about animals and their involvements with researchers, farmers, zookeepers, handlers and other human beings. These deftly translated accounts oblige us, along the way, to engage in both ethology and philosophy. She combines serious scholarship with humor that resonates.

Vinciane Despret

Vinciane Despret studied philosophy and, later, psychology, coming back to philosophy with her PhD in 1996. Her first field work was in the Negev desert, in Israel, where she explored the possibility of doing an ethology of the ethologists. She then wrote her PhD about the scientific practices that study emotions in humans and in animals. Currently she is Maître de conferences at the Department of Philosophy of the University of Liège, and at the Faculty of Anthropology and Social Sciences and Faculty of Psychology and Sciences of Education at the Free University of Brussels.

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Join Us for the Tenth Annual Writers in the Garden!

City of Asylum (2016)

Writers in the Garden

Saturday, Aug 27th
5:00-7:00 pm
Alphabet Reading Garden

Writers in the Garden

City of Asylum’s annual garden poetry event is now in its 10th year!

Join us August 27th from 5:00 to 7:00 pm for a poetry reading in our newly opened Alphabet Reading Garden!

This year we are doing something special: While in the past, we have toured various gardens in the Northside, this year we have a new space to call our very own. Come help us celebrate the opening of the Alphabet Reading Garden with this very special garden event.

This year’s event is curated by Lori Jakiela. She has chosen an interesting mix of writers with very varied voices and perspectives—Cynthia Mendoza, Micki Myers, Scott Silsbe, and Meghan Tutolo. Each writer has also been commissioned by City of Asylum to write a special text representing their perspective on the Alphabet Reading Garden.

This event is FREE but limited to 70 people. Be sure to RSVP!

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The Taming: A Reading by A.M. Rycroft at City Books

Location: City Books, 908 Galveston Avenue
Date: Monday, July 25th
Time: 7-8:30pm
Event Link: HERE

A dark fantasy tale, The Taming follows the brash Thystle Moran, sword for hire. Only one job has ever bothered her, one that promised to be easy money, but ended in the death of her friend. Now, an imp with questionable motives says her friend’s death was no accident. Thystle seeks retribution as her world spirals out of control. She faces off against her dark past, a betrayal, feelings for a young woman, and the interests of a shadowy group known only as the Immortals. Can she ever just catch a break?

Join City of Asylum for a Reading with Raza Rumi

Mario Bellatin

Delhi by Heart: Impressions of a Pakistani Traveler 

Delhi by HeartIn Delhi by Heart: Impressions of a Pakistani Traveler, Raza explores the idea of home from a very complex set of experiences: “Why does the capital of another country feel like home? How is it that a man from Pakistan can cross the border into ‘hostile’ territory and yet not feel ‘foreign’?”

Raza Rumi fled his native Pakistan weeks after an attempt on his life that killed his driver in March 2014. A leading public voice in Pakistan’s fight against extremism and human rights violations, he is the newest writer in residence of Ithaca City of Asylum.

During this evening Raza will read from Delhi by Heart: Impressions of a Pakistani Traveler and from his new manuscript memoir; he will also speak about violent extremism in Pakistan.


Join us for an evening with Raza Rumi

Thursday, May 5th
330 Sampsonia Way
7:00 pm: Reception
7:30 pm: Presentation and Questions
8:30 pm Dessert and Informal Discussion

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Raza RumiRaza Rumi is a visiting international scholar in residence in the honors program of the School of Humanities and Sciences at Ithaca College.  He is also affiliated with the New America Foundation and the United States Institute of Peace.

Following his work as an analyst for the Pakistani government and the Asia Development Bank, he joined Pakistan’s liberal weekly The Friday Times as a writer and editor in 2008 and has been a broadcast commentator and talk show host. He also served on the United Nations mission in Kosovo in 2000, is a former director and senior fellow at the Jinnah Institute public-policy think tank, and was a director at Justice Network, a coalition of NGOs. As a freelance policy professional he has advised international development organizations, governments, and NGOs.

City of Asylum: Vu Tran Reading

Join us for an evening with Vu Tran on February 12 at 7:00 pm. He will be reading from his debut novel, Dragonfish.

7:00 p.m. Reception | 7:30 pm Reading, Talk, and Q&A | 8:30 pm Dessert and Informal Discussion

More information HERE