Shop Talk

A Modern Memoir of Our Industrial Workforce

In early March 2020 a debut memoir came into the spotlight for its harrowing look at the life of the blue collar workforce in America.

I found myself reading a short preview of the book in a local publication and by the time I was done I knew I had to order it immediately.

Rust is based on the life experiences of Eliese Goldbach, a native Clevelander who has traveled a winding and challenging road towards self identity, perseverance and revival in the Rust Belt. She navigates personal trauma, coming of age, yearning for self actualization and more while ultimately ending up in the most unlikely of places – the ArcelorMittal steel mill.

Goldbach takes us inside the steel mill with vivid details and an honest portrayal of what life as a steelworker is like. She spotlights the importance of their work and the impact it has on our country as a whole.

Woven throughout her memoir, Goldbach details varying personal issues which continue to come at her from multiple directions. Many felt relatable to me, be it our proximity in age, mental health, our Cleveland ties and much more. Undertones of generational differences lace the book and probably make this story a different read for any person who picks it up.

Goldbach also works through the development of her political identity. Early on she is steered one way by her parents, only to end up on the opposite end of the spectrum. Her depiction of the identity shift does not come across in a way which is asking you as a reader to follow her beliefs but rather an opportunity to trace the path of transition. She does so with details as to why the shift has occurred.

Rust couldn’t have resonated with me more. In the same way that I enjoyed JD Vance’s bestseller Hillbilly Elegy in 2016, this book takes on a similar meaning. The differences between Vance and Goldbach highlight the beauty of our country – diverse viewpoints. However the overarching theme around the Midwest, specifically Ohio, hit close to home.

As we continue to fumble our way through the confusion COVID-19 is creating, we are reminded that the industrial workforce is ‘essential’ to the continued success of our country. That the people going to work every single day, producing goods and providing services that are essential to the continuation of our economy, are ones we need to thank and praise. Rust  tells us exactly that, and is a must read!