Speaking Volumes

Gabrianna Dacko

Zoje Stage isn’t a parent. But the Pittsburgh-based author’s debut novel describes a deeply disturbing mother-daughter relationship rooted largely in the mind of a sociopathic 7-year-old girl.

Courtesy of the author

In Anjali Sachdeva’s debut collection of short stories, a young frontier wife who can’t abide daylight gets lost, perhaps fatally, in a mysterious cavern. A steelworker in 19th-century Pittsburgh is injured terribly in an industrial accident, but develops a strange power. A present-day fisherman encounters a mermaid. An in-vitro septuplet narrates the tragic fates of her siblings.

The wide-ranging premises are among those captured in Sachdeva's nine stories in  All the Names They Used For God, released in February through Spiegel & Grau.

"Teenie" Harris / Carnegie Museum of Art Heinz Family Fund

Cities like Harlem and Chicago are often associated with “The Great Black Renaissance,” but for a brief  time in the 20th century, Pittsburgh was an epicenter for black art, sports, business and political influence.

Edward Everett Hale, 1904 (via Wikimedia Commons)

An online debate broke out earlier this week over two otherwise unremarkable lines in a 1648 poem by the English poet Robert Herrick:

Tumble me down, and I will sit / Upon my ruins, (smiling yet :)

ACLA Now Boarding for TransAtlantic Flight

Mar 5, 2014
Brendan Bourke

National Book Award winner Colum McCann will speak to Pittsburgh-area high school students Monday as featured author for the Allegheny County Library Association (ACLA)'s 2014 "One Book, One Community" program.

McCann will appear at Woodland Hills High School to discuss his 2013 novel TransAtlantic, which combines historical research with fictional elements in a story that spans centuries, continents, and multiple generations of characters.

Closing the Book on Speaking Volumes (For Now)

Dec 30, 2013

For more than a year and a half, the Speaking Volumes project has brought 90.5 WESA listeners weekly conversations about books and reading with Pittsburghers from all walks of life.

As Speaking Volumes moves from a weekly series to a more occasional segment, host and producer Josh Raulerson shares his recent reads with 90.5 WESA's Larkin Page Jacobs.

The Power of Being Magnanimous with Kevin Acklin

Dec 16, 2013
Ryan Loew / 90.5 WESA

Kevin Acklin is the chief of staff for Pittsburgh’s Mayor-elect Bill Peduto. To get ready for his new position, Acklin has been brushing up on some political non-fiction.

Michael Weber, “Don’t Call Me Boss: David L. Lawrence, Pittsburgh’s Renaissance Mayor

Revisiting the Classics with Audrey Russo

Dec 9, 2013
Courtesy photo

President of the Pittsburgh Technology Council Audrey Russo talks about the books she keeps piled on her nightstand and drawing inspiration from strong female role models.

Sun Tzu, "The Art of War"

At Work in America With Dave Newman

Dec 2, 2013
Josh Raulerson/90.5 WESA

Dave Newman worked as a house painter, a truck driver, a bookstore manager and a college teacher before taking on his latest job as an award-winning novelist. As in his own fiction, Newman's reading interests reflect both his working-class background and an interest in life at the margins of the Rust Belt.

Reflections on Billy Strayhorn with janera solomon

Nov 25, 2013
Josh Raulerson / 90.5 WESA

In celebration of what would have been jazz legend Billy Strayhorn's 98th birthday, janera solomon, executive director of the Kelly Strayhorn Theater, talks about her insights from his biography and legacy.

Sheryl Sandberg, “Lean In”

The Values of Genre Fiction with Teacher Justin Aion

Nov 18, 2013
Josh Raulerson / 90.5 WESA

Woodland Hills math teacher Justin Aion uses young adult novels in the classroom and enjoys genre fiction in his downtime. Lately he's been reading:

Orson Scott Card, “Ender’s Game

Winner of the Hugo and Nebula Awards

The Density of Short Fiction with Mason Radkoff

Nov 11, 2013
Courtesy Braddock Avenue Books

Author and Pittsburgh native Mason Radkoff  talks down and out characters, fatherhood, day-to-day reality in writing, and the comeback of the short story.

Richard Russo, “The Risk Pool

Leaving an Imprint on History with Rep. Dan Frankel

Oct 21, 2013

When he's not busy representing Pittsburgh's East End in the state House of Representatives, Rep. Dan Frankel enjoys pleasure-reads about the political process. To him, it never feels like work.

Robert A. Caro, “The Passage of Power: The Years of Lyndon Johnson, Vol. 4

Reconciling Theory and Practice with Tim Cook

Oct 14, 2013

Tim Cook, founding director of the nonprofit The Saxifrage School, speaks about grounded ideas, finding the fantastic wherever we are, reserving winter for fiction and "gift-like" value.

William Carlos Williams, “A Sort of Song

Speaking Volumes: Mike Doyle

Oct 7, 2013

Rep. Mike Doyle (D-Forest Hills) likes page-turning crime dramas and thrillers with a political bent. He has a unique vantage point on novels set in Washington, which — as it turns out — are more true to life than you might think.

David Baldacci, The Forgotten

Adapting Truth into Visual Drama with Karen Dietrich

Sep 30, 2013
Josh Raulerson / 90.5 WESA

Karen Dietrich is the author of a memoir, "The Girl Factory" (Globe Pequot Press, 2013).  She earned an MFA in poetry from New England College.  Her writing has appeared in Bellingham Review, Smokelong Quarterly, Specter, PANK, Joyland, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and elsewhere. 

She recently joined the faculty of the online creative writing MFA program at University of Arkansas at Monticello.  She lives in Greensburg, Pa.  Visit her online at karendietrich.net

Courtesy Brian O’Neill

Brian O’Neill, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writer and author of "The Paris of Appalachia: Pittsburgh in the Twenty-First Century," muses on the value of location-based writing, fiction set in Pittsburgh, writing about sex and appreciating poetry as a bad poet.

Kaui Heart Hemmings, “The Descendants

Josh Raulerson / 90.5 WESA


Braddock Mayor John Fetterman speaks on the lessons he has learned from literary accounts of history. 

Joshua Wolf Shenk, “Lincoln’s Melancholy

A Literary Delivery with Mr. McFeely

Sep 9, 2013
Josh Raulerson / 90.5 WESA

Entertainer David Newell — better known to audiences as "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" resident deliveryman Mr. McFeely — talks with Speaking Volumes about biographies, his own literary future and the reading habits of his lifelong friend Fred Rogers.

Lee Child, “Killing Floor

Andy Warhol Museum

Warhol Museum director Eric Shiner’s reading interests are eclectic in a way that Andy would surely appreciate. 

Grace Coddington, “Grace: A Memoir

Josh Raulerson / 90.5 WESA

Not all Ayn Rand fans are small-government conservatives. Take Allegheny County Controller and self-professed liberal Democrat Chelsa Wagner, for example …

Wally Lamb, “She’s Come Undone

In this extraordinary coming-of-age odyssey, Wally Lamb invites us to hitch a wild ride on a journey of love, pain, and renewal with the most heartbreakingly comical heroine to come along in years.

Finding Meaning in Frivolous Times

Aug 5, 2013
Josh Raulerson / 90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh City Paper editor Chris Potter takes his social commentary with a little ironic distance and a healthy dose of the absurd.

Chuck Palahniuk, "Lullaby"

Larger Realities from Smaller Perspectives

Jul 29, 2013
Courtesy PublicSource

Freelance reporter Leah Samuel writes about social and environmental issues for PublicSource and others. As a journalist, and as a reader, she finds the lessons of history are best learned from the margins.

Philip Beard, "Dear Zoe"

Interesting People and Fascinating Interactions

Jul 22, 2013
Josh Raulerson / 90.5 WESA

Essayist and improv comedian Andrea Laurion reads an eclectic mix of non-fiction, but all of her picks remain grounded by a strong narrative voice.

Rona Jaffe, The Best of Everything

courtesy Kathy Newman

Carnegie Mellon University professor Kathy Newman offers a look at six novels that changed America with their ability to cross genres and transcend their original forms.

Harriett Beecher Stowe, Uncle Tom’s Cabin


What does a good novel have in common with an orchestral score? More than you might think, says Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra assistant conductor Fawzi Haimor.

Pleasure Reading: Alive and Well on RMU Campus

Jul 1, 2013
Josh Raulerson / 90.5 WESA

Young people these days. Too busy to read books. Too worldly to seek meaning in fiction. Too addled by social media to read anything critically. Right?


J.R.R. Tolkein, The Hobbit

Lewis, Tolkien and the 'True Myths' of Faith

Jun 24, 2013
Josh Raulerson / 90.5 WESA

Steve Tuell studies Hebrew and the Old Testament at the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. As a theologian and a scholar of ancient languages, he has a special appreciation for the fantasy fiction of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien.

Around the World and Beyond with Steve Sokol

Jun 17, 2013
Josh Raulerson / 90.5 WESA

President of the World Affairs Council in Pittsburgh Steve Sokol describes his picks in both nonfiction and fiction.

Peter Bergen, Manhunt: The Ten-Year Search for Bin Laden From 9/11 to Abbottabad

Weird and wonderful fiction picks from Tom Sweterlitsch

Jun 10, 2013

Pittsburgh writer and librarian Tom Sweterlitsch has wide-ranging reading interests in fiction. 

Stewart O'Nan, Songs for the Missing