Review: Rust Belt Femme by Raechel Anne Jolie

A story of life in rural Ohio and a girl’s journey to awareness.

Cover: David Wilson

Synopsis:

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.

Self-proclaimed queer femme feminist writer Raechel Anne Jolie shares her story growing up in Ohio in Rust Belt Femme.

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.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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Further Details:
Publisher: Belt Publishing, 9781948742634, 2020
Cover: David Wilson; Book Design: Meredith Pangrace
Setting: Ohio
Pages: 150; Sex: PG

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