Rust Belt Femme

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Pub Date Mar 10 2020 | Archive Date May 15 2020

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Raechel Anne Jolie’s early life in a working-class Cleveland exurb was full of race cars, Budweiser-drinking men covered in car grease, and the women who loved them. After her father came home from his third-shift job, took the garbage out to the curb and was hit by a drunk driver, her life changed. Raechel and her mother struggled for money: they were evicted, went days without utilities, and took their trauma out on one another. Raechel escaped to the progressive suburbs of Cleveland Heights, leaving the tractors and ranch-style homes home in favor of a city with vintage marquees, music clubs, and people who talked about big ideas. It was the early 90s, full of Nirvana songs and chokers, flannel shirts and cut-off jean shorts, lesbian witches and local coffee shops.Rust Belt Femme is the story of how these twin foundations—rural Ohio poverty and alternative 90s culture—made Raechel into who she is today: a queer femme with PTSD and a deep love of the Midwest.

Raechel Anne Jolie’s early life in a working-class Cleveland exurb was full of race cars, Budweiser-drinking men covered in car grease, and the women who loved them. After her father came home from...

Advance Praise

"A sharp coming-of-age portrait." -- Kirkus Reviews

"Raechel Anne Jolie harnesses the interwoven beauty and trauma of coming of age femme in a tough part of our broken country. Compassionate and political, queer and punk and angry, Rust Belt Femme shows with grace and grit how community can save your life." -- Michelle Tea, author of How to Grow Up: A Memoir

"This miraculous little book manages to plumb the depths of poverty, trauma, punk rock, maternal devotion, young love, and queer identity in language that is lyric and precise. I was blown away. You will be too." -- Steve Almond, author of Candyfreak and cocreator of "Dear Sugar"

"With Rust Belt Femme, Raechel Anne Jolie unveils a crystal ball, releasing a vivid love letter to her past, her mother, herself, and to Cleveland. Her stunning writing [alone] makes me want to become a better writer." -- Iliana Regan, author of Burn the Place

"A sharp coming-of-age portrait." -- Kirkus Reviews

"Raechel Anne Jolie harnesses the interwoven beauty and trauma of coming of age femme in a tough part of our broken country. Compassionate and...

Marketing Plan

National publicity campaign.

Author events in Chicago, Minneapolis, Ann Arbor, Cleveland; more TBD.

National publicity campaign.

Author events in Chicago, Minneapolis, Ann Arbor, Cleveland; more TBD.

Available Editions

EDITION Other Format
ISBN 9781948742634
PRICE $26.00 (USD)

Available on NetGalley

Send to Kindle (PDF)

Average rating from 33 members

Featured Reviews

"This story, then, is about growing up in poverty in rural Ohio, finding hope in the alternative culture I'd discovered in Cleveland, and how my complicated love for these people and these places is a tenacious part of everything I've done since leaving it. Every bit of it turned me into the queer femme feminist writer I am today..."

"In between [her childhood] and now are Northeast Ohio landmarks that left scars, sometimes like kisses and sometimes like razor blades."

RUST BELT FEMME is a love letter to the good, the bad, and the Very Bad   incidents, people and places which have coalesced, forming Raechel into the person and the destiny that had been hers all along.

Raechel's candor is refreshing, and as such, her personality shines through with every word she writes. I have read reviews referring to the sometimes crude language she uses as inappropriate, but I have to disagree with that assessment. Raechel was raised in a blue collar home and the language she often uses in her book reflects that fact. A memoir can be written with lyrical prose of the very best kind and yet still be a flop with its intended readers. Why does this happen? I believe one word can sum up why a memoir either succeeds or fails; that word is AUTHENTICITY. Authenticity is (or should be) the goal of all memoir/auto-biographical authors. RUST BELT FEMME has authenticity in spades.

Having never heard of Raechel Anne Jolie before seeing the listing for this book on the NetGalley website, I began reading Rust Belt Femme with no preconceived notions of it's content. Because of this, every new morsel of information was eagerly awaited and Raechel did not disappoint.

RUST BELT FEMME proves just how important childhood events are in the formation of the adult we will become. Raechel's loss of her father figure at such a  tender age was the single event upon which her  childhood took a distinctly darker turn. Despite her family's economic issues, she "... never doubted that [her] mom loved [her] more than anything, and that she would love [her] profoundly and without condition. There was never one instance when she made [her] feel like [she] had to change, not one second when she didn't make it clear that [Raechel] was the most important thing to her in the world."

"In her Introduction, Raechel states: "... whether our neurology is burdened by trauma or not, I think most of us who are drawn to memoir are burdened with an incurable case of nostalgia." I agree wholeheartedly and admit that I am afflicted with the exact nostalgia she is talking about, and in reading RUST BELT FEMME, that desire was 100% fulfilled.

I rate RUST BELT FEMME as 5 OUT OF 5 STARS ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ and highly recommend this book to all my fellow memoir lovers.

*Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with a free copy of this book.*

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An excellent memoir from Raechel Anne Jolie detailing her life in Ohio and beyond. I found it informative and interesting throughout. I was particularly saddened to learn about the Irish immigrant canal workers and the dreadful conditions they endured. Heartbreaking to think of them, and the indigenous people, kept beneath the white folks both literally and figuratively. Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose. And I'm glad to know it's not just me with the Jeremy Irons thing! As Raechel says herself, this memoir more than satisfied my need for nostalgia. There is so much humanity in this book; so many people just doing the best that they can to get by. So many people trying to forge their own identities. Themes include love, relationships, poverty, politics, activism and queer culture. I've re-read many passages and highlighted them to read again. I loved every word and found it incredibly inspiring. Major kudos for the mixtape at the end! What a wonderful way to start 2020!

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A story of love and a testament of forgiveness, Jolie explores not just love of family, but of place, of class. “this city built by worker’s hands.” This memoir conveys a love of self and a gentleness that I haven't seen before. Rust Belt Femme is a thoughtful and personal examination of class and gender, and how Jolie found her peace with both. A narrative of strength and resilience, Jolie writes simply and beautifully about growing up poor and other, while also acknowledging the privilege she did have.

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I went into this book expecting something along the lines of Stone Butch Blues or Redefining Realness and I got a little bit of both, a little bit of neither.
This book really feels like a memory, sometimes raw, sometimes processed and analyzed, with songs and quotes, and jumping ahead and then returning back. If you love memoirs, or stories in which a place is a character on its own, or story of working class people, this book is 100% for you.

The one thing that disappointed me a little is the fact that it had typos and formatting mistakes near the end, and I hope it will be fixed before publication

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I read this book as an ARC by choice on NetGalley, and this review is an honest one that reflects my opinions only.

I thought that this was a really insightful and well-done memoir that discusses queer life and poverty in such an insightful and deep way. As someone who has lived both of these realities, it was deeply touching and reflected the realities of these classes. I was really interested in the way that the author tied the two of these ideas together with her knowledge of capitalism and identity. Her expertise from her PhD shone through the writing, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading this.

The writing style was personal and reflected the hardships and humour of the author spectacularly, and always felt appropriate to the tone. While dealing with the issues of childhood sexual assault and trauma, the tone was appropriate and respectful regardless of the rest of the book. I would place a trigger warning on the book for discussing that issue in particular. While it personally didn’t trigger me, it was a bit confronting in general, so be wary and take care of your own mental health.

Overall, I really appreciated this book and it gave me a deeper insight into issues that I was already intrigued by. Also, the discussion of 9/11 was really interesting.

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This was such a fun, engaging read. I also grew up in a suburb of Cleveland, so obviously that connection contributed to my enjoyment, but Rust Belt Femme does an excellent job of balancing personal details and larger takeaways about Raechel's history and her queer femme identity, which makes for a quick, easy and impactful read. I don't think I've read anything else that explores the intersections between class, race, gender and sexuality in such a concise and accessible way.

My only real complaint is that I wish this had been a bit longer, or at least covered a longer period of time. Because it focuses on Raechel's time in Cleveland and she doesn't come to terms with her queerness until her college years, we hear a lot about what shaped that identity but not about how that identity actually looks and how it impacts her life, aside from a few paragraphs looking forward.

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A fascinating view of what it's like to come out and be yourself while growing up impoverished. Did her upbringing shape who she is today? Read the book and find out. It's an unflinchingly honest story that will resonate long after you finish the book. Well done and well told. Happy reading!

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Rust Belt Femme is a coming of age story. Raechel writes an honest and heartfelt story about growing up poor, the search for identity, and an accident involving her father that had her life, as she knew it at a young age, uncertain.

She writes about her family and surroundings not as if she were lacking in money and what she didn't have, but the rich memories she had of her grandmother(whom I especially liked), her relationships, and the world she discovered on Coventry Road. Each of these elements helped form her into the person she is today and she holds her head high as she recounts the memories. Some of them painful. This book was very relatable even if you didn't grow up poor. Exploring the world beyond the confines of your back yard is exciting as a teen and I loved her mother for encouraging her.

I admire Raechel's tenacity to get an education despite the lack of funds and hold on to her true identity.

Thank you Netgalley and Belt Publishing for the arc.

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There are two statements Jolie writes that really resonate with me: “Poverty is as damaging as it is enriching.” Jolie talks about her life and connects it to the person she has turned into today. It is a story I think many will relate to - I did. The story was very familiar even though I did not grow up in the rural midwest. I nodded my head many times while reading.

“Trauma is an incoherent language of the body.” Wow. So freaking true. I do not know why this one sentence impacted me so much, but it has.

I will say that I expected something a little different from a “queer” writer’s memoir. I confess I did not expect a book full of male and female sexual relationships (laugh). Jolie only references any other references, but details all heterosexual relationships. If you were hoping, as I was, for a sexual identity memoir in the manner of homosexuality - this is not it.

Jolie focuses on what being a woman is to her and how growing up in rural Ohio and in poverty impacted this awareness. Jolie’s story is a mix of yesterday’s speak and today’s learned language. It makes it an interesting read where you can find nuggets of “holy sugar” that hits home.

I received an ARC of this book and I am writing a review without prejudice and voluntarily.

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An honest and refreshing coming of age memoir which deals with poverty, childhood adversity, trauma and realising your part in the LGBTQ community. I knew nothing about Raechel before reading this book but fell in love with her and her quirks.

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This short and snappy memoir had me captivated. Jolie's writing is precise and lyrical and her story deeply relatable to this fellow Midwestern lefty queer. I would highly recommend this book!

Thank you to Netgalley and Belt Publishing for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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