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A Memoir of Steel and Grit

Eliese Colette Goldbach

Flatiron Books

Rust Download image

ISBN10: 1250239419
ISBN13: 9781250239419

Trade Paperback

320 Pages



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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.


Praise for Rust

"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

"[Eliese Goldbach] finds camaraderie with her fellow laborers and the perspective necessary to face past trauma and find her place in the world. This is a journey of discovery for both the reader and the author."—NPR

"At times, Rust reads more like a great novel than an autobiography—it’s full of evocative descriptions of a hot, deafening workplace where the risk of deadly injury is constant and sexist put-downs are a daily, if not hourly, occurrence. Initially drawn to the blue-collar life for its promise of the financial stability she so desperately needs, Goldbach comes to realize that her job at the mill could just as easily lead to a complete emotional breakdown. Ultimately, Goldbach’s fearless, eye-opening book reminds us that the bonds between people can transcend their ideological differences—creating hope even in the darkest times and the most unexpected places."—Apple Books Review

“Eliese Colette Goldbach uses formal experiment, broken narrative, and a voice that admits doubt and questions the terms of its telling to fight silencing. Masterful form is often a question of well-managed rupture.”—Leslie Jamison, The New York Times bestselling author of The Recovering

"There have been a lot of books written about life in industrial cities in the Midwest, but relatively few written by people who actually live in them, and few so heartfelt and unsparing. Rust is at once a unique memoir and a broad indictment of America's broken promise that anyone who came of age in the 21st century will find painfully familiar."—Sarah Kendzior, The New York Times bestselling author of The View from Flyover Country

"A haunting meditation from the far shores of addiction, mental illness, and obsession."—Ladette Randolph, author of Leaving the Pink House

"Rust is a brave, heartfelt memoir whose pages overflow with hard-earned wisdom. Goldbach's story of embodying our national extremes—conservative vs progressive, religious vs secular, white collar vs blue—has endowed her with a singular ability to see through our partisan delusions and identify what, truly, unites us still as Americans. If your heart, like mine, feels poisoned by this era of political division, Rust may just be the antidote for which you've been searching."—John Larison, author of Whiskey When We're Dry

“The steel mill burns on in the heart of Cleveland, and in the pages of Eliese Collette Goldbach’s transformative debut. This is indeed a memoir of steel and grit, the extraordinary work of every ordinary day. But like all great stories, Rust is also a love story—about a craft, a city, and the communities we forge there. Goldbach reminds us that what we make in turn makes us who and what we are.”—Dave Lucas, author of Ohioana Book Award for Poetry winner Weather

"Goldbach turns in a gritty memoir of working in a steel mill while wrestling with the world beyond . . . An affecting, unblinking portrait of working-class life."Kirkus Reviews

"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."Booklist

"This beautifully told, nuanced memoir will strike a chord with fans of J.D. Vance's Hillbilly Elegy, and pique the interest of sociology scholars."Library Journal

"A female steelworker's soulful portrait of industrial life. Goldbach's evocative prose paints a Dantean vision of the mill . . . 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."Publishers Weekly


Read an Excerpt


Steel is the only thing that shines in the belly of the mill. The walkways, which were once the color of jade, have dulled to a sickly, ashen green. The cranes, once yellow, have browned with grime. Dust settles on everything—on...

About the author

Eliese Colette Goldbach

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.

Cheryl DeBono / Michaelangelos Photography

Eliese Colette Goldbach

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