Announcing a new anthology of regional writing, available exclusively to Belt members.

2020 has been a year for the books—this book specifically. From police killings and anti-racist uprisings to a global pandemic and consequential national election, the Rust Belt has had a front-row seat to this a chaotic year. George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis. Chicago wrote a case study in police violence. Cleveland hosted the first Presidential Debate. Donald Trump barnstormed the region, trying to convince everyone he’d brought manufacturing jobs roaring back. Detroit was an early hotbed of coronavirus cases, and city after city has demonstrated that the effects of public health crises are distributed unequally across race and class.

Dispatches III - David Wilson

Cover design by David Wilson.

In other words, if there was a big story in 2020, the Rust Belt was right in the thick of it.

But the truth is, 2020 didn’t come out of the blue. The challenges we’re facing are the result of decades of racism, disinvestment, and exploitation—among other things—in our communities. For the past seven years, Belt has been unpacking that context, working to help our readers understand how we got here and where we’re going next. This year, we’ve covered everything from coronavirus to confederate apologists, loiterers to blues musicians, Michigan dams to movements to defund the police—all with a distinctly regional lens, in stories written and edited by people who know and love this place.

This volume gathers a fraction of that coverage, collecting twenty-five of the most-read, most-resonant pieces we published between September 2019 and August 2020. You’ll find stories from Chicago, Detroit, Pittsburgh, Minneapolis, and everywhere in between. Each one illuminates something meaningful about what it means to live here now. Think of them as both time capsule and road map, a snapshot of where we are, where we’ve been, and what all of it means for the future.

I’m writing this introduction in the lead-up to the 2020 general election, and the Rust Belt has re-emerged as a topic of national importance, often with simplified, distorted ideas about what life is like in our communities. But for all of us at Belt Magazine (and, I suspect, for you), it never left. We hope this anthology can serve as a monument to the complexity and vitality of the region, a reminder that this place and its people will always be more interesting, expansive, and important than any of us can imagine. ■

—Ryan Schnurr, editor



This essay is adapted from the introduction to Dispatches from the Rust Belt Vol. III, which is available exclusively to members of Belt Magazine. Join today to reserve your copy.