Eliese wasn’t supposed to be a steelworker. Raised by staunchly Republican and Catholic parents, Eliese dreamed of escaping Cleveland and achieving greatness in the convent as a nun. Full of promise and burgeoning ideals, she leaves her hometown, but one night her life’s course is violently altered. A night that sets her mind reeling and her dreams waning. A cycle of mania and depression sinks in where once there were miracles and prayers, and upon returning home she is diagnosed with mixed-state bipolar disorder.
Set on a path she doesn’t recognize as her own, Eliese finds herself under the orange flame of Cleveland’s notorious steel mill, applying for a job that could be her ticket to regaining stability and salvation. In Rust, Eliese invites the reader inside the belly of the mill. Steel is the only thing that shines amid the molten iron, towering cranes, and churning mills. Dust settles on everything – on forklifts and hard hats, on men with forgotten hopes and lives cut short by harsh working conditions, on a dismissed blue-collar living and on what’s left of the American dream.
But Eliese discovers solace in the tumultuous world of steel, unearthing a love and a need for her hometown she didn’t know existed. This is the story of the humanity Eliese finds in the most unlikely of places and the wisdom that comes from the very things we try to run away from most. A reclamation of roots, Rust is a shining debut memoir of grit and tenacity and the hope that therefore begins to grow.
Rust has sat on my too read pile of books for a while and suddenly when I was looking for my next non-fiction read it called out to me! Sent out as proof, but with no set date to be reviewed, it sat in a corner patiently waiting to be read, while more recent ARCs got read first. Well having read it, I would like to say to anyone that has it on their book shelf, push it to the top of your pile, because it is stunning.
The author Eliese Goldbach was never meant to end up working in a steel mill, from a young age she dreamed of becoming a nun. But a series of heart breaking events led her to Cleveland’s Steel Mill. From this journey she has written a memoir of startling honesty and emotional depth. It ranges from her childhood, her dreams of escaping her hometown to find greatness in a life dedicated to religious work, to a shocking event that led to a decent into cycles of depression and mania, then finally a redemption of sorts by returning full circle to the towering structures of the steelworks, that had been there in the background her entire life.
What I found remarkable about this book, is the author’s journey, so if your looking for a book about the steel making process, then this is not the book for you.
This is a book about people and society. For those working in the mill including the author, it was not just a place of work, but a community, their differences being the very glue that bound them together, despite widely differing views about politics, because the making of steel was part of their identity, it was who they were. Thanksgiving dinners eaten together, breakfasts made on cooking stoves in the shanties scattered throughout the mill, gossip shared and bounds strengthened by events bigger than their differences
She writes with a understated passion and with an innate understanding of people and events. Her detailing of a society riven by it differences is the most moving and perceptive part of this book, especially the parts where she talks about how Trump and others like him came to power.
He offered us scapegoats and outrage to mask our anxieties, which blinded us to the fact that he was just another rich, powerful man who wanted to gain more power on our backs. He fed us vengeance, and he stoked our anger. He crippled the good in us, which meant that he never really understood the delicate beauty we were fighting to defend.Rust – One Woman’s Story of Finding Hope Across The Divide by Eliese Colette Goldbach. Page 137.
Add into the mix her honesty about how being bi-polar effected both her relationships and her life in general and you have a work that is deeply moving and inspiring.
About the author
Eliese Colette Goldbach is a steelworker at the ArcelorMittal Cleveland Temper Mill. She received an MFA in nonfiction from the Northeast Ohio Master of Fine Arts Program.