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Book talk: Three takes on the ‘rust belt’

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Rust Belt Chic The Cleveland Anthology edited by Richey Piiparinen and Anne Trubeck.

New collection of essays about Cleveland

The words “authentic” and “real” come up a lot in Rust Belt Chic: The Cleveland Anthology, a new collection of essays about what it means to be from Cleveland, or to live there, or to move away. There are some poems and photos as well, and even a short comic.

Sometimes those words are used by visitors trying to sum up the essence of ethnic neighborhoods and industrial pride. The term “rust belt chic,” it seems, was coined 20 years ago by Joyce Brabner, wife of Harvey Pekar, describing those out-of-state hipsters who “ask if they can shoot footage of us going bowling.” It will take dozens of the best writers in Northeast Ohio to tell the story, and a word that comes up even more often is “home.”

Former Cuyahoga County Treasurer Jim Rokakis goes back to his first campaign appearance in 1977 when, as a 22-year-old law school hopeful, he ran for Cleveland City Council and found himself “thrown to the wolves” at a speech, and devastated by the murder of a neighborhood girl early in his first term. Former Beacon Journal columnist David Giffels contributes a story about a frigid 1981 family trip to a Browns game that can be summed up thus: Red Right 88.

The book’s editors are urban planner Richey Piiparinen and Anne Trubek, an Oberlin College professor who wrote A Skeptic’s Guide to Writers’ Houses. Rust Belt Chic (218 pages, softcover) costs $20 from; the electronic version is $2.99 to $7.99 depending on the device.

At 7 p.m. Wednesday, Giffels, WCPN producer and reporter David C. Barnett, Chris Wise (who contributed one of the 12 bonus essays in the e-book) and co-editor Piiparinen will appear at the Akron-Summit County Public Library, 60 S. High St.

Satirical guide

There’s no chic at all in the Cleveland of Mike Polk Jr. The comedian, whose “Hastily Made Cleveland Tourism Videos” have more than 10 million views on YouTube, says his “joking comes from a place of love” in Damn Right I’m From Cleveland: Your Guide to Makin’ It in America’s 47th Biggest City, a satire of glossy tourism books. It leads with a foreword from the (fictional) Cleveland Tourism Board, which uses language no real tourism board ever would.

Polk suggests some new promotional bumper stickers (Cleveland: You Could Do Worse!), drags out his friends to reenact and photograph the most memorable sports disasters (his “only black friend” portrays Michael Jordan, sinking “The Shot” over the head of a “small, hapless” boy playing the part of Craig Ehlo). Polk helpfully includes a guide to “Cleveland Dating on the Cheap,” strip joints, red-light cameras and his favorite cute lady bartenders, so there’s definitely value here. But pretty harsh on Michael Stanley!

Damn Right I’m From Cleveland (108 pages, softcover) costs $14.95 from Gray & Co.

Refinery story

The “Rust Belt” theme comes up again in Rust Belt Resistance: How a Small Community Took On Big Oil and Won by Bluffton University history professor Perry Bush. It tells of the reaction of the city of Lima when, in 1996, British Petroleum announced that it would close its refinery there, which employed some 500 people. The combined efforts of the employees and the mayor resulted in the sale of the plant to another investor, saving jobs and keeping the refinery running.

The 299-page hardcover costs $45 from Kent State University Press.

‘Gone Missing’

In Gone Missing, the fourth installment of her Kate Burkholder series of Amish thrillers, Linda Castillo doesn’t bother with the usual assurances that crime is rare among the Amish, or that Kate is astounded when, once again, violence strikes.

Kate, police chief of the fictional Holmes County town of Painters Mill, grew up Amish, and her love interest, John Tomasetti, has asked her to consult with his Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation case of two Amish teenagers who have disappeared. Tomasetti works out of the Richfield office, and before Kate even gets there, she learns that a third girl is missing.

Kate and Tomasetti drive the back roads of Trumbull County, trying to talk to distrustful parents, all of whom insist that their missing daughters are good girls. The investigators try to determine what the motive could be, what these girls have in common — and, after a body is found, how to save them before more die.

When Castillo visited Hudson last June to promote Breaking Silence, the third book in the series, I asked her how she planned to maintain plausibility, which can be challenging with books about small-town crime. Her answer was convincing, but she’s not using it in this book. Is she saving it for Book Five?

Gone Missing (277 pages, hardcover) costs $24.99 from Minotaur, a division of St. Martin’s. Linda Castillo grew up in Ithaca, a village in Darke County, and now lives in Texas. On Dec. 3, Castillo posted on her Facebook page that a TV movie starring Neve Campbell as Kate would premiere on the Lifetime cable channel on Jan. 6; it’s based on Book One, Sworn to Silence.


Cuyahoga Falls Library (2015 Third St.) — Dolores Clay signs her fact-inspired book Dying to Love Amanda, 1 to 3 p.m. today.

Cuyahoga County Public Library (Orange branch, 31300 Chagrin Blvd., Pepper Pike) — Gail Bellamy discusses and signs Cleveland Christmas Memories, 7 to 8:30 p.m. Monday.

Dee’s Hallmark (4055 Burbank Road, Wooster) — Ann Freedlander Hunt, great-granddaughter of the founder of Freedlander’s Department Store, signs Gone But Not Forgotten: A Freedlander Legacy, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday, and 12 to 5 p.m. Saturday.

Learned Owl Book Shop (204 N. Main St., Hudson) — Jenny Shanahan signs her children’s book Lost and Found: Jesus, the Greatest Treasure, with illustrator Lauren Arsena, 1 p.m. Saturday.

Village Book Store (8140 Main St., Garrettsville) — Youngstown resident Les Coe signs his novel Space Crew-zers, about people marooned on a space station, 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday.

— Barbara McIntyre

Special to the Beacon Journal

Send information about books of local interest to Lynne Sherwin, Features Department, Akron Beacon Journal, P.O. Box 640, Akron, OH 44309 or Event notices should be sent at least two weeks in advance.

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