Cover image for Rust : a memoir of steel and grit
Title:
Rust : a memoir of steel and grit
ISBN:
9781250239402
Edition:
First edition.
Physical Description:
310 pages ; 25 cm
Summary:
To ArcelorMittal Steel Eliese is known as #6691: Utility Worker, but this was never her dream. Fresh out of college, eager to leave behind her conservative hometown and come to terms with her Christian roots, Eliese found herself applying for a job at the local steel mill. The mill is everything she was trying to escape, but it's also her only shot at financial security in an economically devastated and forgotten part of America. In Rust, Eliese brings the reader inside the belly of the mill and the middle American upbringing that brought her there in the first place. She takes a long and intimate look at her Rust Belt childhood and struggles to reconcile her desire to leave without turning her back on the people she's come to love. The people she sees as the unsung backbone of our nation. Faced with the financial promise of a steelworker's paycheck, and the very real danger of working in an environment where a steel coil could crush you at any moment or a vat of molten iron could explode because of a single drop of water, Eliese finds unexpected warmth and camaraderie among the gruff men she labors beside each day. Appealing to readers of Hillbilly Elegy and Educated, Rust is a story of the humanity Eliese discovers in the most unlikely and hellish of places, and the hope that therefore begins to grow. --
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Summary

Summary

"Elements of Tara Westover's Educated... The mill comes to represent something holy to [Eliese] because it is made not of steel but of people."
-- New York Times Book Review

One woman's story of working in the backbreaking steel industry to rebuild her life -- but what she uncovers in the mill is much more than molten metal and grueling working conditions. Under the mill's orange flame she finds hope for the unity of America.

Steel is the only thing that shines in the belly of the mill...

To ArcelorMittal Steel Eliese is known as #6691: Utility Worker, but this was never her dream. Fresh out of college, eager to leave behind her conservative hometown and come to terms with her Christian roots, Eliese found herself applying for a job at the local steel mill. The mill is everything she was trying to escape, but it's also her only shot at financial security in an economically devastated and forgotten part of America.

In Rust , Eliese brings the reader inside the belly of the mill and the middle American upbringing that brought her there in the first place. She takes a long and intimate look at her Rust Belt childhood and struggles to reconcile her desire to leave without turning her back on the people she's come to love. The people she sees as the unsung backbone of our nation.

Faced with the financial promise of a steelworker's paycheck, and the very real danger of working in an environment where a steel coil could crush you at any moment or a vat of molten iron could explode because of a single drop of water, Eliese finds unexpected warmth and camaraderie among the gruff men she labors beside each day.

Appealing to readers of Hillbilly Elegy and Educated , Rust is a story of the humanity Eliese discovers in the most unlikely and hellish of places, and the hope that therefore begins to grow.


Author Notes

Eliese Colette Goldbach was a steelworker at ArcelorMittal Cleveland. She received an M.F.A. in nonfiction from the Northeast Ohio Master of Fine Arts program. Her writing has appeared in Ploughshares , Western Humanities Review , Alaska Quarterly Review , McSweeney's Internet Tendency , and The Best American Essays 2017 . She received the Ploughshares Emerging Writer's Award and a Walter Rumsey Marvin Grant from the Ohioana Library Association, which is given to a young Ohio writer of promise. She now works at John Carroll University and lives in Cleveland with her husband.


Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

A female steelworker confronts extreme heat, psychological turmoil, and Trumpian culture clash in this soulful portrait of industrial life. Goldbach started working at the vast Arcelor Mitall steel plant in Cleveland in 2016 and spent three years performing dreary and dangerous jobs: sweeping up in cavernous buildings, hefting huge loads on unstable forklifts, tending giant steel coils that could crush her should they slip, donning a fire-retardant jumpsuit to rake dross out of a vat of molten zinc. She also weathered an overwhelmingly male workplace's assumptions about female incompetence along with erratic swing shifts that frazzled her relationship and her mental health as she struggled with bipolar disorder. Her story also focuses larger social conflicts as Goldbach, a onetime anti-abortion Catholic who became a liberal feminist after she was raped in college, contends with her parents' and coworkers' pro-Trump sentiments and with society's--and sometimes her own--disdain for blue-collar work. Goldbach's evocative prose paints a Dantean vision of the mill--"the buildings, which are covered in rust and soot, have taken on the blackish-red color of congealed blood"--but she discovers in the plant's quirky, querulous employees an ethic of empathy and solidarity that bridges ideological divides. The result is an insightful and ultimately reassuring take on America's working class. (Mar.)


Kirkus Review

Ohioan Goldbach turns in a gritty memoir of working in a steel mill while wrestling with the world beyond."Steel is the only thing that shines in the belly of the mill." The rest, writes the author, is hued in the greens and browns of dust and decay, muted and camouflaged. Appropriately, at the plant, she was just this side of anonymous, known as "#6691: Utility Worker." Still, she was assured by fellow workers that the money she would make would be the envy of Cleveland, certainly more than what she'd make as the professor she wanted to become. Of course, there were plenty of drawbacks. Her first day, she heard the horrific tale of another woman on the line torn to bits"her body just fell apart"by an errant cylinder on a conveyor belt. There were also dangerous forklifts and cauldrons and vats of magmatic metal. The world outside was full of terrors, as well. Goldbach endured sexual assault and the onset of bipolar disorder and battled her parents on matters of religion and politics. As a solid member of the blue-collar working class, union card in hand, she took a role as the resident liberal in the steel mill, a type so rare that her fellow workers seemed scarcely able to imagine it. Trumpian currents run deep in the mill, as she discovered, but when tragedy strikes, she learns, these "bunch of Joe Schmos" are as one: "There was no division so great that it could eclipse the unity that had been forged in the light of the mill's orange flame." The narrative sags every now and then, but one cheers for Goldbach when she's finally offered the teaching post to which she's so long aspired, entailing a massive pay cut and starting all over at the bottom, prepared to take that risk precisely because she has gained the necessary confidence on the shop floorand saved enough to do so thanks to the decent, union-backed wages she earned.An affecting, unblinking portrait of working-class life. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.


Booklist Review

As part of a generation that grew up being told they could be anything they wanted to be, Goldbach had not imagined that her future would involve wearing a hardhat. But after an unexpected recession dimmed her prospects for the future, even as she was about to earn a graduate degree, Goldbach decided to trade her part-time work painting houses for the promise of steady income at the steel mill in her hometown of Cleveland. With the promise of a union position after six months, Goldbach lands a job in the finishing department. Under the constant threat of danger from the mill's machinery, she earns the coveted yellow hat worn by union employees by working swing shifts that push both her mental health and her relationship to the breaking point. Bringing her perspective as an outsider both as a woman and a liberal to this insightful account of the steel worker's lot, Goldbach displays refreshing candor and hard-earned knowledge about the issues that divide us and the work that unites us.--Bridget Thoreson Copyright 2020 Booklist