Mysteries of Pittsburgh by Michael Chabon

Discuss the symbolism of the Cloud Factory, as it relates to Art’s experience, as well as Cleveland’s. Also — consider your own landscapes. What place from your childhood/adolescence is your own Cloud Factory? Describe it and explain its significance to you and your own place.

The Cloud Factory, to Art, is a safe place that makes him feel at ease; the steam that comes from the factory is what causes him to name the building as such. My own personal Cloud Factory growing up was a spot in the woods by my childhood home in Cincinnati, an area cleared of trees and bushes where I had dragged a lockbox and would store small possessions like paperback books, drawings, and a journal. It was my personal safe space away from anyone else where I could hide.

An American Childhood by Annie Dillard

In what ways are Dillard’s childhood experiences similar to or different from your own? How does Dillard write about place?

Annie Dillard recounts stories from her childhood viewed from the lenses of inquisitiveness and wonder. She’s brought up in Pittsburgh, recalling things that later strike her as being “ordinar[ily] Pittsburgh,” showing her growth from child to adult.

I can relate to Dillard’s recounts of childhood wonder and later realization that the city one grows up in isn’t always as great and magical as it seems. I moved from Cincinnati to Pittsburgh about three years ago and realize that things from Cincinnati aren’t as “great” as I remember.

I think most children can remember stories just as vividly as Dillard’s, running through the backyards of the neighborhood in the frigid cold until trapped by an adult. Dillard draws in specifics when remembering these glimpses into her past and it brings the novel into a series of neatly tied picture frames with an overarching theme.