Rust Belt Femme (pre-order coming soon)
By Raechel Anne Jolie
Forthcoming Spring 2020 - not yet available for pre-order
Raechel Anne Jolie’s early life in Valley View, Ohio was full of all the signifiers: race cars, Budweiser-drinking men, men covered in car grease, and women who loved them. This crass neighborhood family and the lawns full of broken-down cars, giggling children, and old tires were her happy home for four years. Then, one night, her father came home from his third-shift job, took the garbage out to the curb of our dark, rural street and was hit by a drunk driver speeding home after a night at Tinky’s Tavern. Life, of course, was never the same, and this is where this story begins.
After the accident, Raechel and her mom became a team, survivors of the same war. But they struggled for money, lost multiple homes and apartments because of unpaid rent, went days without utilities, and took their trauma out on one another. Home was never safe exactly, but it was familiar.
Her escape was Cleveland Heights, where her uncle lived, and Coventry Road especially. Coventry became a synecdoche for the life she knew she might have someday. I-77 became a portal taking her from Valley View’s tractors and ranch-style homes into the part of Cleveland Heights that is trendy apartment buildings, parking meters, vintage marquees, and people who talked about big ideas. In her memory, it is a sepia-toned montage of Nirvana songs and chokers, flannel shirts and cut-off jean shorts, lesbian witches and local coffee shops. The sidewalks on Coventry felt like clouds, and she was eager to walk on and toward who she felt destined to become.
This story, then, is about growing up in poverty in rural Ohio, finding hope in the alternative 90s culture that existed in Cleveland at the same time, and how this foundation informed who Raechel is today as a queer femme with PTSD and a deep love of the Midwest.