Salon Readings 2013-14

City of Asylum/Pittsburgh’s Salon Readings feature writers from around the world in a casual, friendly setting. They are held at 330 Sampsonia Way, Pittsburgh, PA. These events are free, but space is limited; reserve online by clicking the “Reserve” link for each reading.

January 9, 2014: Moth Storyhour Grand Slam winner David Harris-Gershon comes to City of Asylum to read from his newly-published memoir, What Do You Buy the Children of the Terrorist Who Tried to Kill Your Wife?

Reception 7:00 | Reading 7:30 | Dessert & Discussion 8:30 | RESERVE
330 Sampsonia Way, Pittsburgh PA 15212

David Harris-Gershon and his wife, Jamie, moved to Jerusalem full of hope. Then, in the midst of a historic cease-fire between Israel and the Palestinians, a bomb shrieked through Hebrew University’s cafeteria. Jamie was hurled across the room, her body burned and sliced with shrapnel; the friends sitting next to her were instantly killed. David was desperate for answers—why now? why here? why my wife? But when a doctor handed him some shrapnel removed from Jamie’s body, he refused to accept that this bit of metal made him “one of us”—another traumatized victim who would never be able to move on. Instead, he dug into Israeli government records to uncover what triggered the attack, then returned to East Jerusalem to meet the terrorist and his family. Part memoir, part political thriller, part exposé of the conduct of the peace process, this fearless debut confronts the personal costs of the Middle East conflict—and reveals the human capacity for recovery and reconciliation, no matter the circumstance.


“A harrowing experience… becomes a potent lesson for personal growth… [Harris-Gershon’s] honesty and humility give the memoir historical context, and ultimately elevate his story from the individual to the universal.” —Time Out New York

“Fierce… A tale of redemption and new beginnings and of truly embracing the other. Harris-Gershon’s story is not really about Middle East politics so much as it is a story of healing—a debate about whether South African–style reconciliation and restorative dialogue can really bring about closure after an event of unspeakable pain and violence.” —Slate

“Brave and impressive.” —Guardian

“It is a story about how a great personal trauma can lead to a journey that upends long-held beliefs and ideas. The terrific thing about this book is that the author manages to tell his story without sentimentality, grandiose pronouncements, or false humility. He pulls the reader in with his unpretentious, laconic style, and with his refusal to shy away from acknowledging his own flaws.” —Daily Beast

“This enormously compelling title smashes preconceived notions while delivering an unforgettable and provocative story about the roots of terrorism and the nature of victimhood… Bracing, intense, and relentless, this is a book about how we as humans get to the darkest of places and the questions we must ask to find our way out. A transformative reading experience.” —Booklist, starred review

“An arduous, brave, messy, raw, emotional journey.” —Kirkus Reviews

Feb. 12, 2014: Manuel Gonzales, author of The Miniature Wife and Other Tales

7:00 Reception | 7:30 Reading | 8:30 Dessert & Discussion | RESERVE
City of Asylum – 330 Sampsonia Way, Pittsburgh PA 15212

Manuel Gonzales is a graduate of the Columbia University graduate creative writing program. He has published fiction and nonfiction in Open City, Fence, One Story,Esquire, McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern, and The Believer. He lives in Austin, Texas, where he is Executive Director of Austin Bat Cave.

The eighteen stories of Manuel Gonzales’s exhilarating first book render the fantastic commonplace and the ordinary extraordinary, in prose that thrums with energy and shimmers with beauty. In “The Artist’s Voice” we meet one of the world’s foremost composers, a man who speaks through his ears. A hijacked plane circles a city for twenty years in “Pilot, Copilot, Writer.” Sound can kill in “The Sounds of Early Morning.” And, in the title story, a man is at war with the wife he accidentally shrank. For these characters, the phenomenal isn’t necessarily special—but it’s often dangerous.

In slightly fantastical settings, Gonzales illustrates very real guilt over small and large marital missteps, the intense desire for the reinvention of self, and the powerful urges we feel to defend and provide for the people we love. With wit and insight, these stories subvert our expectations and challenge us to look at our surroundings with fresh eyes. Brilliantly conceived, strikingly original, and told with the narrative instinct of a born storyteller, The Miniature Wife is an unforgettable debut.


“It’s easy to compare Manuel Gonzales to George Saunders, but it would be just as easy to compare him to Borges or Márquez or Aimee Bender…He makes the extraordinary ordinary, and his playfulness is infectious.” —Benjamin Percy, Esquire

“Excellent…Gonzales has built a peerless fictional universe by populating his stories with zombies, unicorns, werewolves and space warriors, and then giving them the sensibilities of worried middle managers…hilarious and chilling…a superior collection of writing and a signpost of an emerging talent with a strong and distinctive voice.” —Michael Lindgren, The Washington Post

“Lucid and confident…because his prose is never sloppy and his rhythm is impeccable, Gonzales’s sentences unfold with an unusual smoothness…these stories showcase an exciting new voice… [they] ring and resound.” —Aimee Bender, The New York Times Book Review

“Is there a term for something that’s sad, funny, and strange all at once? Sunge? Frad? Because that would describe this imaginative debut…even the most absurd emotional conflicts feel familiar somehow, which only makes them more moving.” —Melissa Maerz, Entertainment Weekly

“Gonzales’ voice is so new and different and dazzling that you won’t be able to put down his book.” —Steph Opitz, Marie Claire