By Zoe Gould

There is no denying that term “Rust Belt” is as much a nickname of endearment as it is a condemnation. In the postindustrial haze, cities like Detroit, Cleveland, Cincinnati, the powerhouses of American vigor and pride, quickly fell from popular favor as our country joined the globalized economy and, well, time ticked on. But the sheer strength, calloused determination, and joy of innovation never left. It may seem romantic to think otherwise, but these cities did not fall into ruin. They survived, they evolved, and they are vibrant.

Beneath the rust of their industrial pasts, these cities shine with promise. Our anthologies celebrate the spirit, grit, and resurrection of our many homes: the cities that have not given up.

In 2012, Belt published its first book, Rust Belt Chic: A Cleveland Anthology. We tapped into our favorite parts of the city: it’s unseemly politics, thriving arts communities, and factory funerals. Reaching out to Cleveland writers gave us a chance to share the dirges and legacies that defined Cleveland’s past and juxtapose them against plans for renewal, stories of entrepreneurship, and slices of art and culture. The resounding approval of our readers urged us to document other neighboring cities, and to release The Cleveland Anthology: Second Edition this past September.

This year, aside from updating our Cleveland book, we have ventured out to Detroit and Cincinnati. At the moment, much of the world considers Detroit to be a hot button issue. It is our great ruin: a symbol of fading American industry and the casualty of our collective leap into the arms of the technological revolution. But for us, the residents, the journalists, the people who live there, Detroit is not a symbol – it’s a home. It is not to be gawked at – it should be listened to. The Detroit Anthology is filled with stories told by Detroiters, in churches, in bars, on street corners, and to our children before bed. They are the currency and hum that fill the streets of America’s greatest city. Similarly, The Cincinnati Anthology engages in a critical dialogue about where the city is headed and how it will get there. While remembering Cincinnati’s rich history and profound legacies, this anthology does not shy away from the hard question: who are we now? 

And while Belt Publishing was out searching the streets of these few cities for the best stories they could offer, Belt Magazine was busy doing the same thing in real time, on a Rust Belt-wide scale. In just one year, Belt Mag’s snapshots of Rust Belt culture garnered amazing press and grew exponentially. This month, Dispatches from the Rust Belt: Best of Belt Year One showcases our favorite stories from the past year. This book symbolizes the story of our own growth as a company by bringing together all of the great writing that put us on the map.

2015 is a big year for Belt. We will be putting out three more anthologies from three great cities. In our opinion, there are few things more devastating, romantic, and fanatical than Cleveland sports, so in the spring we will be publishing The Cleveland Sports Anthology (we can’t stay away, it seems). The Pittsburgh Anthology will release in the Spring, and coming next fall, The Youngstown Anthology will bring to life the history that has informed the strong, forceful character of Ohio’s Steel City. Interested in writing about Pittsburgh or Youngstown? There’s still time.

Your stories matter to us. We hope that our anthologies help give a voice to those who inhabit the cities that have not dropped off the map. Anthologies are how we stay heard. We know that every city has a story and that great cities never die.

Want to read our books? Become a sponsoring member or Patron of Belt and receive all our published titles. Or purchase them individually here. 

Want an anthology for your Rust Belt city? Leave your suggestion in the comments!

Zoe Gould is Belt’s publicist.

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