Title: RUST BELT FEMME
Author: RAECHEL ANNE JOLIE
Genre: NON-FICTION, BIOGRAPHIES AND MEMOIRS, LGBTQ
Length: 150 PAGES
Publisher: BELT PUBLISHING
Received From: NETGALLEY
Release Date: MARCH 10, 2020
Rating: 5 OUT OF 5 STARS ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
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.
“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.*
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Raechel Anne Jolie believes in astrology, the power of collective resistance, and meeting a deadline. She is, first and foremost, an educator and an activist dedicated to making this world a little bit better than she found it. But she is also: a cat-mom, a yogi, a witch, a Media and Gender Studies PhD, a vegan, a podcaster, and a writer.
Her writing has been featured in Bitch Magazine, Teen Vogue, Autostraddle (and more), and she’s been interviewed as an expert in her field for Rolling Stone, NPR, and the CBC. (If you’re interested in her academic work, you can check out her CV).
She also co-hosted/produced the Feminist Killjoys, PhD podcast with Dr. Melody Hoffmann. For three years, they brought smart and funny reflection to discussions on politics and pop culture.
Raechel is also queer AF, and a lot of her writing is about being femme and growing up poor. She also writes about: pop culture, politics, social movements, feminism, and health. If you’re into that sort of thing, she just might be your grrrrl.
To learn more about this author, visit the following links:
QUOTES I LOVED:
“A PhD and multiple major-city addresses can never change that being poor is written in my blood and my bones as much as it is sung from my tight skirts and cheap lipstick.”
“Being poor, really, became the building blocks of my gender; this embodied expression we in the queer community call femme. It’s a type of femininity that I have come to realize is inextricable from the shape of early poverty, the shades of the rural edges of Cleveland, and for me, the sound of punk.”
“I was seduced out of my poor ‘white trash’ town first into the arms of the artist culture on Coventry Road, then later by the punks in Lakewood.”
“… my heroes became the women who survived despite men’s absences. Whether the men were taken from homes by car accidents or jail or a restraining order, by the time I was five, I was surrounded almost entirely by resilient women.”
“We built, like layering bricks and cement, a home out of our love, the only thing sturdy on any given day. Our fights were hurricanes, our love though, indelible.”
“… we were using anger as a shield to protect us from facing deep hurt and immense fear in the face of scarcity. We’d chase it with tenderness because how else could we face the day? It was a Pyrrhic skill that I continue to carry with me… It was a terrible way to learn love, but it was better than not knowing love at all.”
“I remember … the flicker of the marquee mixed with a street lamp. It was a soft yellow-white. Muted but also vivid. It’s how I felt most days after that. My brain buzzing with potential – with what my life could, would, should be – but also deeply grounded in the present, in exactly who and where I was.”
“Warning Labels on College Courses?”
On Point with Tom Ashbrook
“Boston League of Wicked Wrestlers” (profile)
Inside Higher Ed
The Huffington Post
The Body is Not an Apology
The Daily Dot
In Media Res