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Connie Schultz, the Pulitzer Prize-Winning columnist and wife of Sen. Sherrod Brown, gets it. She gets the power of a city telling its own story so as to develop from its own DNA, not the DNA of another city’s so-called “success”. That is, Ms. Schultz gets Rust Belt Chic. Here she is in a recent Cleveland Magazine piece:

By the week’s end, all I could think about was the power of story and the need for more of us — “us” being everyone who lives and works in Northeast Ohio — to contribute to the greater narrative of Cleveland.

When is the last time you told someone why you live here? Have you ever?

I don’t mean to suggest that we should cast a greeting-card glow to life in this challenging region. But honestly, despite the rocky terrain, you and I are still here. There are reasons for that. There’s the narrative we should be sharing, one story at a time.

The book talk in Oberlin was a gathering of writers who’d contributed to Rust Belt Chic: The Cleveland Anthology. It is not a chirpy book, but it does have a happy back-story. It started when writer and editor Anne Trubek sent this message: “I’m pulling together, quick and dirty, an anthology about Rust Belt Chic — trying to get ahead of the curve on what is quickly a trending topic. I’d love to talk with you about getting involved in some way• .”

She and co-editor Richey Piiparinen asked, and more than 30 writers, and several photographers, agreed to contribute. In record time. For free.

The book is a jumble of mixed emotions. We were not building a yellow brick road. In one of the darker pieces, titled “Not a Love Letter,” Jimi Izrael writes: “I love Cleveland — she holds everything that is dear to me. But I avoid her, if I can.” Still, Izrael had to write about her. He can’t quite let her go, and we’re better for it.

In its entirety, Rust Belt Chic is a love story, the moody kind, with accusations of betrayal and evidence of forgiveness. We show up for book talks, in various configurations, because there’s just so much to say about our Cleveland. No matter our grievances and heartbreak, none of us is willing to give up. If we’re still talking, the marriage counselors like to say, there’s hope for reconciliation.

Read the entirety of the piece here.

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