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Belt Publishing

An Alternative History of Pittsburgh

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By Ed Simon

Ed Simon tells the story of Pittsburgh through this exploration of its hidden histories—the LA Review of Books calls it an “epic, atomic history of the Steel City.”

The land surrounding the confluence of the Allegheny, Monongahela, and Ohio rivers has supported communities of humans for millennia. Over the past four centuries, however, it has been transformed countless times by the many people who call it home. In this brief, lyrical, and idiosyncratic collection, Ed Simon, a staff writer at The Millions, follows the story of America's furnace through a series of interconnected segments, covering all manner of Pittsburgh-beloved people, places, and things, including:

  • Paleolithic Pittsburgh
  • The Whiskey Rebellion
  • The attempted assassination of Henry Frick
  • The Harmonists
  • The Mystery, Pittsburgh's radical, Black nationalist newspaper
  • The myth of Joe Magarac
  • Billy Strayhorn, Duke Ellington, Andy Warhol, and much, much more

Accessible and funny, An Alternative History of Pittsburgh is a must-read for anyone curious about this storied city, and for Pittsburghers who think they know it all too well already.

Ed Simon is a staff writer for The Millions and a contributing editor for the History News Network. He is the author of several books, most recently Printed in Utopia: The Renaissance's Radicalism. His essays have appeared in The Atlantic, The Paris Review Daily, The Washington Post, Newsweek, Poetry, McSweeney's, Aeon, Jacobin, Salon, The New Republic, and The New York Times among dozens of others. A native of Pittsburgh, he currently lives in northern Virginia.

More praise for An Alternative History of Pittsburgh:

"[An] epic, atomic history of the Steel City....In its panoramic vision, if not in its length, it resembles most John Dos Passos’s U.S.A. trilogy.... Despite the conspicuous “history” in its title, and despite Simon’s evident rigor, An Alternative History of Pittsburgh is a work of literature, a series of linked creative nonfiction essays, an historical story cycle."—Phillip Maciak, Los Angeles Review of Books 

"Simon blends historical sources with engrossing insights, mixing quotes from scholars with a nuanced and telling analysis. [...] Simon’s balanced and easily digestible approach is a winner that pulls no punches for some of the city’s more well-known forebears." —Fred Shaw, Pittsburgh Quarterly 

"An idiosyncratic and fresh look at the geological, social, and industrial origins of the Steel City."—Lily Eckimian, The PGHer

"A sparkling new take on everyone’s favorite Rust Belt metropolis."—Justin Velluci, Jewish Chronicle

"[A] rich and idiosyncratic history.... Simon marshals his historical snapshots into an incisive survey of the region and its inhabitants. Even Pittsburgh history buffs will learn something new."Publishers Weekly

"An Alternative History of Pittsburgh is nothing short of an epic, a sprawling history of a city that is as complex and polyphonous as America itself. Simon, whose history with the city goes deep, serves as a brilliant guide to this terrain, traversing a network of intersecting stories with lyricism and novelistic verve, calling our attention to what has been forgotten and overlooked, and discovering the numinous where you'd least expect it. The book is at once a love letter, a reckoning, and an insurrection against familiar narratives about the Rust Belt, reminding us why this city and its history remain so urgent today."—Meghan O'Gieblyn, author of Interior States

"Action-packed" Voice of the Arts, WQED

"In An Alternative History of Pittsburgh, Ed Simon deftly peels back the city’s many layers to reveal revolutionary moments. How is it possible that one locale could house a 19,000-year old settlement and the roots of the pop art movement, a utopian community and the mansions of gilded age robber barons, the first Republican National Convention and the first supermodel? For Pittsburghers, this is an illuminating exploration of the city you thought you knew. But even if you’ve never set foot in Pittsburgh, this book is a brilliant look at how geology and art, politics and religion, disaster and luck combine to build America’s great cities—one that will leave you wondering what secrets your own hometown might be hiding." Anjali Sachdeva, author of All the Names They Used for God

"He launches his reader into a history of the place that alights like a bumblebee on this moment, has a look around, and then moves on to the next." —Jody DiPerna, Pittsburgh Institute for Nonprofit Journalism

"Simon tells the story of the city and all the changes that made it what it is today in a way that's entirely new, by the hand of someone who is deeply familiar. Simon shines a light on things often forgotten, and uncovers untold stories in the process." ―Juliana Rose Pignataro, "Newsweek's 21 Best Books to Read This Spring"

APRIL 20, 2021 | ISBN: 9781948742924 | HISTORY | PAPERBACK | 5 X 7 | 184 PAGES

See also: 

The Pittsburgh Bundle

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