Cover Image: Rust Belt Femme

Rust Belt Femme

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Member Reviews

This short and snappy memoir had me captivated. Jolie's writing is precise and lyrical and her story deeply relatable to this fellow Midwestern lefty queer. I would highly recommend this book!

Thank you to Netgalley and Belt Publishing for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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I was given an e-ARC of this book through Netgalley and I’m so grateful I stumbled upon it. This was such a relatable, honest and fun read. Being from the Midwest (MI),Queer, a survivor of trauma and raised in poverty, I was able to relate to some of the authors experiences. Rachel’s story explores gender, sexuality, class and race in a way that is accessible to all readers. I enjoyed exploring her femme identity and her journey with and through trauma as it had a lasting impact on me. Maybe it’s also because I’m a queer femme and from the Midwest. For some this book May be a struggle as their is no chronological timeline. While she speaks of what shapes her into who she is, I feel as though what that actually looks like is missing . Nonetheless this is her story and what we received is what she felt was most important for us to know.  Thank you to Raechel Anne Jolie for sharing your story with us .
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A simply fantastic and inspiring book for women/young women. Very much enjoyed reading. Look forwards to seeing/hearing more from this author.
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My Rating: 2/5 Stars 

I was given an e-ARC of this book through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

I was really looking forward to reading this memoir but unfortunately I had to DNF it as I just couldn't get on with the non-linear format. I found it very jarring and not enjoyable to read at all but I really appreciated what the author was saying and how the converted their thoughts so truthfully and touched upon many important topics in the part that I read.
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Rust Belt Femme by Raechel Anne Jolie is a poetically frank memoir that serves as a love letter to growth, an ode to femmes and poor folx doing their best, and a beautiful nostalgia trip for those of us with an ache for nineties and early aughts culture.

 The story begins at the time of Jolie’s father’s brain injury from a hit-and-run accident and continues for nearly two decades. The brain injury complicates Jolie’s relationship with her dad who continues living with her at first, though eventually Jolie’s family unit shrinks to herself and her mom. This unit ebbs and flows in the way that struggling folks help others who are struggling, in the way that sometimes a friend needs a couch to crash on and you have a couch or a room and a daughter who needs watching. There is no glorification of the hardship—poverty, trauma, and the coming and going of significant others all have places in this telling—but the joy is equally there, because life is complicated like that. Because there is music and because there are radical friends and pockets of diverse community and kissing and DIY shows and “sex-just-because”.

What shines brightest in this novel is that the love and appreciation for even the most painful moments of learning. There is understanding that a first boyfriend “taught me an articulation of anti-capitalist politics and opened up a world of punk music that stirred the part of my gut that knew I had found what I needed. I wouldn’t have had”, even though this boyfriend was less than perfect. Jolie takes on her youth with eyes wide open with affection for the femmes and the poor folx who paved the way for her to find herself as well as for the younger version of herself who paved the way for her to become herself.

“We are not independent creatures in a vacuum,” she writes. “We are constantly…picking things up that we wouldn’t otherwise, realizing what we love and who we are through someone else’s experience of them.” This kinetic energy pulses through the memoir as things and people come together and then apart over and over again. There is a mix of personal and collective history, and a recognition of privilege is certainly present. This memoir recognizes that living authentically is a radical act, and by the end, it is clear that Raechel Anne Jolie is a force to be reckoned with.
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Thank you Netgally and the author for the gifted copy. All thoughts are completely my own.

This was a dnf for me. Like others have mentioned the tense changes very quickly which at time made it difficult to read.

I also found some of the wording a bit offputting. It just didn't sit well in my head.
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Rust Belt Femme is a coming of age story. Raechel writes an honest and heartfelt story about growing up poor, the search for identity, and an accident involving her father that had her life, as she knew it at a young age, uncertain.

She writes about her family and surroundings not as if she were lacking in money and what she didn't have, but the rich memories she had of her grandmother(whom I especially liked), her relationships, and the world she discovered on Coventry Road. Each of these elements helped form her into the person she is today and she holds her head high as she recounts the memories. Some of them painful. This book was very relatable even if you didn't grow up poor. Exploring the world beyond the confines of your back yard is exciting as a teen and I loved her mother for encouraging her.

I admire Raechel's tenacity to get an education despite the lack of funds and hold on to her true identity.

Thank you Netgalley and Belt Publishing for the arc.
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Loved this book.  I grew up in Cle Iceland as well, and could relate to places and the era!  Great book!
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There are two statements Jolie writes that really resonate with me: “Poverty is as damaging as it is enriching.” Jolie talks about her life and connects it to the person she has turned into today. It is a story I think many will relate to - I did. The story was very familiar even though I did not grow up in the rural midwest. I nodded my head many times while reading.

“Trauma is an incoherent language of the body.” Wow. So freaking true. I do not know why this one sentence impacted me so much, but it has. 

I will say that I expected something a little different from a “queer” writer’s memoir. I confess I did not expect a book full of male and female sexual relationships (laugh). Jolie only references any other references, but details all heterosexual relationships. If you were hoping, as I was, for a sexual identity memoir in the manner of homosexuality - this is not it.

Jolie focuses on what being a woman is to her and how growing up in rural Ohio and in poverty impacted this awareness. Jolie’s story is a mix of yesterday’s speak and today’s learned language. It makes it an interesting read where you can find nuggets of “holy sugar” that hits home. 

I received an ARC of this book and I am writing a review without prejudice and voluntarily.
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An honest and refreshing coming of age memoir which deals with poverty, childhood adversity, trauma and realising your part in the LGBTQ community. I knew nothing about Raechel before reading this book but fell in love with her and her quirks.
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This memoir gives its reader a beautiful snapshot of the author's coming of age, and addresses those of us who rarely ever see ourselves portrayed on the page - white trash, poor, growing up in the suburbs/country/heartland of America, not knowing if we'll have futures, in the places we don't usually fictionalize because their beauty isn't seen by the outside world. Parts of this where met with such a rigorous shaking of my head, I'm surprised I didn't get dizzy - especially when she talks about her mom and her strength, along with the strength of other working-class women she grew up around; her detailed chapters on how the world treats us white trash girls, and how we learn to survive; and how well she is able to capture how trauma shapes a person years into the future. When she touches on her journey of finding feminism, punk, and anarchist politics, and how these political and moral views resounded with her, I felt that deeply in my soul, too. I identify with Raechel Anne Jolie, and I'm hopeful to see more memoirs about the white trash of America. We deserve for our voices to be heard, and Jolie will hopefully be at the forefront of this new wave of writers.
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Rust Belt Femme by Raechel Anne Jolie is a free NetGalley ebook that I read in early January.

In a rich narrative with a ribbon of fierce strength and fighting for what’s right, Jolie faces the indignity and trauma of the past, letting it needle into the soft parts of a tortoise shell, grows up in the 80s and 90s within a whirlwind of social stratas and cultures, exhilarated by grunge, .alt, and riot grrl influences, experiences torrid & tutorsome love affairs, and builds real & strong relationships revolving around music, rad movies, tattoos, and faded, nearly-there dreams.
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A fascinating view of what it's like to come out and be yourself while growing up impoverished. Did her upbringing shape who she is today? Read the book and find out. It's an unflinchingly honest story that will resonate long after you finish the book. Well done and well told. Happy reading!
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I read this book as an ARC by choice on NetGalley, and this review is an honest one that reflects my opinions only.

I thought that this was a really insightful and well-done memoir that discusses queer life and poverty in such an insightful and deep way. As someone who has lived both of these realities, it was deeply touching and reflected the realities of these classes. I was really interested in the way that the author tied the two of these ideas together with her knowledge of capitalism and identity. Her expertise from her PhD shone through the writing, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading this.

The writing style was personal and reflected the hardships and humour of the author spectacularly, and always felt appropriate to the tone. While dealing with the issues of childhood sexual assault and trauma, the tone was appropriate and respectful regardless of the rest of the book. I would place a trigger warning on the book for discussing that issue in particular. While it personally didn’t trigger me, it was a bit confronting in general, so be wary and take care of your own mental health.

Overall, I really appreciated this book and it gave me a deeper insight into issues that I was already intrigued by. Also, the discussion of 9/11 was really interesting.
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This was such a fun, engaging read. I also grew up in a suburb of Cleveland, so obviously that connection contributed to my enjoyment, but Rust Belt Femme does an excellent job of balancing personal details and larger takeaways about Raechel's history and her queer femme identity, which makes for a quick, easy and impactful read. I don't think I've read anything else that explores the intersections between class, race, gender and sexuality in such a concise and accessible way.

My only real complaint is that I wish this had been a bit longer, or at least covered a longer period of time. Because it focuses on Raechel's time in Cleveland and she doesn't come to terms with her queerness until her college years, we hear a lot about what shaped that identity but not about how that identity actually looks and how it impacts her life, aside from a few paragraphs looking forward.
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An honest, raw, non-linear, and beautiful memoir about growing up in the Rust Belt and how, even after you move far away, you never really escape it. Another stunning book from Belt Publishing. Thank you for the opportunity to read and review this book. As a Rust Belt expat it moved me in ways I never expected. I can’t wait to buy a hard copy of it when it’s released.
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I loved this book! For fans of Amber Hollibaugh, Leslie Feinberg, and Dorothy Alison. As a queer femme from the midwest, I couldn't stop myself from reading this book in one sitting. So few books can speak to the experience of how growing up working class can shape your sense of gender and sexuality. This book put me through all the feelings- I laughed, I cried, and most importantly, I felt seen.
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This was a really important and strong story; however, Jolie's non-linear narrative made the book feel distracted and as if it ended abruptly.
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I found this memoir to be honest and open, and despite my own fairly different background there was lots to empathise with. The mentions of music, in particular, were visceral - I found myself stopping reading to go and find the appropriate soundtrack multiple times. It's definitely reiterated my 2020 mission to go to more gigs.
I found the writing style quite disorientating however - I'm a big fan of a non-linear narrative, but this wasn't that. The narrative itself was mostly chronological, however the loose use and swapping of tenses dragged me out of the book a few times.
I found the sections where Raechel is older to be most engaging - particularly the Food Not Bombs sections - and would have liked to have read more of this.
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This was an okay story, but large parts of it failed to hold my interest. I did enjoy the few references to the 90s.

The timeline which was all over the place, along with the rapid tense changes, didn't help.  A small example (Later, I did not want the attention of my mom's boyfriend, but it will happen anyway.)

With that said, I'm sure many readers will get more out of this memoir than I did.
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