Author Eliese Goldbach On Steel, Trauma And Family
In “Rust: A Memoir of Steel and Grit,” Eliese Goldbach tells her story of overcoming sexism, mental illness, and sexual assault while paying homage to the people in the Rust Belt who feel left behind by the American political system.
Goldbach was raised in a deeply conservative household. At an early age, she decided she wanted to be a nun but her faith was shaken when she was raped at the religious university she attended. The assault triggered an episode of mania that ultimately led to a bipolar disorder diagnosis. Her financial struggles after college led her to seek a job at a Cleveland steel mill, a place she never saw herself working.
Goldbach felt like an outcast among her conservative, male, Baby Boomer colleagues. Despite that, she was able to build friendships with her fellow steel-workers and rediscover her own identity as a liberal feminist.
“Steel is the only thing that shines in the belly of the mill.” The rest, writes the author, is hued in the greens and browns of dust and decay, muted and camouflaged. Appropriately, at the plant, she was just this side of anonymous, known as “#6691: Utility Worker.” Still, she was assured by fellow workers that the money she would make would be the envy of Cleveland, certainly more than what she’d make as the professor she wanted to become.
We talk to Goldbach about her experience as a woman in the male-dominated steel industry and her journey to loving herself while battling mental illness.
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