Let Pittsburgh Steel Your Heart

Did you know that the Pittsburgh region is home to 466 bridges — more than any other city in the world? Regardless of whether you are a native-born Pittsburgher, permanent resident, or visitor, Joanne G. Sujansky’s Pittsburgh Will Steel Your Heart: 250 Reasons to Love Pittsburgh should be an interesting read. Written to honor the city’s 250th birthday in 2008, the book is packed with fun, amusing, and otherwise intriguing Pittsburgh facts, each intended to give every Pittsburgh resident something to brag about.

Sujansky’s research on the Steel City includes some surprising information. Reason #244 states that in 1940 the residents of Pittsburgh offered a $1 million reward for the capture of Adolph Hitler. Additionally, according to reason #159, Pittsburgh has the largest nativity scene in the United States, rivaling that of Bethlehem.

On the other hand, some of Sujansky’s reasons are somewhat counterproductive. For instance, not everyone would be proud of reason #70: “Christina Aguilera, a famous pop singer, graduated from North Allegheny High School.”

Still, much of Sujansky’s news is positive. In 2003, USA Today Weekend Magazine named the nighttime view from Mt. Washington the second most beautiful place in America. And just last year, Esquire magazine rated Pittsburgh at the top of its “Cities that Rock” list, which considered all U.S. cities. Sujansky also reminds her reader of 1979, the year the Pirates won the World Series and the Steelers won the Super Bowl.

Besides Pittsburgh’s character and likability, Sujansky focuses in part on what’s in Pittsburgh. It’s the home of the National Aviary, the only bird zoo in the nation. Additionally, Pittsburgh is the only city with an airport displaying the skeleton of a 15-foot T. rex. Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Science Center is one of the top five science museums in the nation. And, if that’s not enough: In 1967 the Big Mac was invented in a McDonald’s in Pittsburgh.

Sujansky also includes plenty of aesthetic reasons to love the Steel City; she has much to say about the wildlife, parks, trees, and scenic views that the area has to offer. Although Sujansky makes a great case for Pittsburgh’s greenery, some of her other reasons seem to be a bit strained. One of her reasons, the Pierogies Race at PNC Park, is not as funny as she makes it out to be. Moreover, Sujansky writes that Pittsburgh’s public pools are safe enough for patrons to leave their belongings unsupervised while swimming — a claim that hardly seems believable.

More than just Pittsburgh, Steel Your Heart also mentions Carnegie Mellon more than once among the 250 reasons: The university is the only place in the world to offer a Ph.D. in robotics. Also, film director George A. Romero attended Carnegie Mellon and later returned to Pittsburgh to film Night of the Living Dead.

Furthermore, Carnegie Mellon is in good company: Reason #76 reminds the reader that there are 44 colleges and universities in the Pittsburgh area. According to the book, Pittsburgh is the 18th most educated city in the United States; 33.6 percent of the population has a college degree or higher.

While reading Steel Your Heart, it’s easy to see why Sujanksy has been deemed the “Ambassador of Pittsburgh” by her friends and colleagues. Her enthusiasm for the city and its intricacies is contagious. Still, clearer and more thorough explanations to the included facts could have really added to the work, which is currently more like a list than a book. For example, reason #126 simply reads, “Fabulous Parks.” Including information about these parks — like their names, locations, and functions — could have strengthened her claim. As a result of the brevity of each fact, this book may not be the best source for promoting Pittsburgh; instead, it may be better suited for natives of the Steel City.