Rust: A Memoir of Steel and Grit

Eliese Colette Goldbach. Flatiron, $27.99 (320p) ISBN 978-1-250-23940-2
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.)
Reviewed on : 11/20/2019
Release date: 03/03/2020
Genre: Nonfiction
Compact Disc - 978-1-250-26093-2
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