Alphabet City to host writers from Pittsburgh, Nigeria


Photo of Marc Nieson courtesy of Ayne Terceira

By Alyse Horn

On 8 p.m. on Friday, December 9, Marc Nieson will be giving a reading from his memoir “Schoolhouse: Lessons on Love + Landscape” at Alphabet City, 40 W. North Ave.

Nieson, a professor at Chatham University and a member of the advisory board at City of Asylum, is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and also a graduate from the New York University Film School. His experience includes children’s theatre, cattle chores, and a season with a one-ring circus, but he said the bulk of his book is about how the change of landscape, moving from the city streets of Brooklyn to 500 acres of open fields in Iowa, influenced his being.
“It was huge for me,” Nieson said. “The education I got out in the woodlands was far more effective and transformative.”

Nieson has also spent time in Minnesota and Venice, Italy. His reading on December 9 will include an excerpt from his memoir that takes place in Venice. Nieson has lived in Pittsburgh for the past 13 years in Bloomfield.

After completing his studies, Nieson stayed in Iowa and became a cultural liaison for the International Writers’ Workshop. The program gathers an average of 30 established and emerging writers each fall from different corners of the globe, and Nieson helped submerge these individuals in American culture.
He not only aided the writer’s interaction with other departments of the university, but also took the writers on “field trips” to submerge them in American culture. That involved rodeos, white gospel shows, and bowling alleys, and Nieson said those times were “seminal experiences” for him.

Accompanying Nieson will be Ukamaka Olisakwe, a writer in the University of Iowa International Writing Program and a visiting writer-in-residence at City of Asylum. Olisakwe is a screenwriter, novelist, and nonfiction writer from Nigeria and has had her work appear in The New York Times. She said she was invited by the university to attend the fall writing workshop.

Olisakwe said her “stories focus on how marriage can change the course of a woman’s life.” Marriage was a choice for her, although it was not for her cousins and she is frustrated that women in Nigeria must marry men and have children to please their families.

During the event at Alphabet City, Olisakwe said she will be reading work from Nigeria. Impressed by the community that City of Asylum has been able to create, she wished that there could be something similar in her country but does not believe it has the support structure to harbor it.

During a November interview, Olisakwe said she had only gone out for walks or to buy groceries, but her favorite part about the Northside was “the mix” of people and their multicultural backgrounds.


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