I started this blog to offer readers samples of from RUST BELT BOY: Stories of an American Childhood, published in May 2016.

Learn more at www.paulhertneky.com

The book tells the story of a generation–children and grandchildren of immigrants, half of whom became emigrants themselves. When heavy industry collapsed in the late 1970s, nearly six million Baby Boomers fled America’s industrial north over the next twenty years, creating  Rust Belt diaspora. Another six million stayed.

“I felt Hertneky was writing a love letter to my own boyhood,” says National Book Award-winner Bob Shacochis.

Nearly all of the essays and stories are set in my hometown of Ambridge, Pennsylvania and Pittsburgh. But every American settlement has seen waves of immigrants.  Those waves often come and go without us recognizing their singularity, their influence, and the pattern they follow.  I have written these essays and stories to acknowledge the boomers who moved away— from Milwaukee and Youngstown and Scranton and all the places in between—and in appreciation for those who stayed home and supplied the gravity, took care of the parents, the towns, and each other.

About me — Paul Hertneky:  

For 25 years I have been writing for newspapers, magazines, websites, radio, and television. Most of my journalistic work centers on food, relating to culture, history, health, the environment, the restaurant industry, cooking, and travel. In addition to hundreds of features, essays, and stories for periodicals, my work also has appeared anthologies and has won two James Beard nominations and a Solas Award for travel writing. I have written two screenplays and am working on a three-part travel narrative set in Greece. For 16 years, I taught graduate students at Antioch University New England and am currently on the MFA faculty at Chatham University. I hold an MFA in Writing & Literature from Bennington College.

Find out more at www.paulhertneky.com

Order RUST BELT BOY: Stories of an American Childhood from Amazon, or visit you local bookstore.


16 thoughts on “About

  1. I thoroughly enjoyed reading all of the posts. I hope that you attract a publisher so that I can read the entire book! After you publish and are back in Pittsburgh promoting the book, perhaps we can celebrate it with a Dinner @ The Carlton.

  2. Paul–I couldn’t stop reading and I’ll look forward to future postings. You got the gift. BTW… the photo images you chose were a beautiful complement to the words. Love from your pal, Chris

  3. Paul,
    A great read! I’ve posted a link on Facebook for my friends. I’ve even sent the link to my folks in Florida.
    It definitely brought back fond, and perhaps not so fond memories of life in Ambridge.

  4. Paul:
    Your essays are fantastic. Very nostalgic for a fellow expatriate of the area. I look forward to your next posts and will be on the look-out for your published book on this subject. Thanks so much for honoring this faded relic of working-class history!

  5. Paul, I have really enjoyed reading your postings. It brings me back to my childhood, growing up in Ambridge. I lived there until 1971, graduating from Ambridge High before leaving for Indiana University of PA. I have been living in Lancaster, PA since 1977, but still visit the old homestead. The town has changed dramatically for sure. Your writings captured me and brought me back to a much simpler time in my life. Your description of Sundays with relatives and visiting with other immigrants that my grandparents were friends with brings back wonderful memories to me. I hope that you find a publisher for your writings so that more people can read and hear about our wonderful home town. My mother is 83 and lives down the street from us. I plan on asking her to make some Pirohi this week. Your description of meatless Fridays and the pirohis has made hungry for those delicious treats.I hope you have a very Merry Christmas with your family.

  6. Paul, I saw a link to this blog on one of my recent visits to the Facebook Ambridge Memories page. Imagine my astonishment to find that not only did you grow up in Ambridge, but that you also went to Divine Redeemer Church and School as I did.

    I believe one of my younger sisters was a classmate of Mark’s.

    Although I am a bit older than you, so our memories aren’t all the same, they do overlap. I’m trying to record mine in a new blog before memories of the Ambridge of our childhood die completely. I’ve added a link to Rust Belt Boy on my blog.

    Your writing is beautiful, and I am glad that such a talented writer is writing a history of a time and place that doesn’t exist anymore.

    I hope you are successful in finding a publisher because I’d like to read the rest of your story.

    • Hi, Nancy. I missed your nice comment back when you wrote it. Thank you.

      By now, you must know how much i admire your historical research and blog. Now we all have a reliable source for stories of Ambridge. No mean feat.

      Yes, RUST BELT BOY, Stories of an American Childhood, derived from this blog will be published on May 3, 2016, for which I am hugely grateful. Pre-sale orders available on Amazon now.I hope to do readings around Pittsburgh this summer, wherever I’m invited. (Will read for pierogies!) With any luck, Laughlin library will have me. I would love the chance to meet you.

  7. You have a real gift for capturing the culture and feeling that made life growing up in Ambridge so memorable. I am grateful to a classmate of my older brother for sharing a link to your story about the history of the American Bridge Company with his class – and then he shared it with me. It was the perfect entre for me to explore more of what you have written. You are a seasoned writer with a well developed craft! Perhaps you were among the many students at AAHS to have benefitted from the English instruction of Mrs. Shenot! I grew up in the shadow of the Bridge Company too and graduated from AAHS a couple years before you. My grandparents were among the many immigrants from eastern Europe. School and work led me away to South Carolina, Minnesota, Kentucky, and then West Virginia. I get back to Ambridge from time to time for reunions and to see family in the region and always stop to enjoy a hot roast beef sandwich at the Maple Restaurant! I look forward to finding some time to read more of your posts.

  8. Dear Paul,
    What a great summary of our town’s history! Having just finished the first chapter, I can’t wait to read more. You’ve made the past of our town come alive. You’ve fleshed out its streets, its people and its essence. You are a wonderful writer.

    As a child (from 1950 through 1967) I lived in one of American Bridges’ company houses on Ohio View right across from the company park that ran along Park Road. I landed on your blog while searching for historical references to an early 1930’s Ambridge mill strike where mustard gas was used on the striking union workers. I am seeking to verify family lore that my grandfather did in fact die as a result of being mustard gassed by Pinkerton agents hired by the mill. I hope I can find some reference in the remainder of your manuscript. But regardless of what I find, it would be a real privilege to get to read it!

  9. Ginny,

    Thanks for your comment and for visiting my site. Your family lore could be mostly right, which isn’t bad for family lore. If you can find Horns in the Hollows, a chapter here, you will see an account of a strike in 1933, and gas canisters are clearly seen in the newsreel.

    I don’t know that a single incidence of mustard gas could lead to death, unless your grandfather died very soon after. But it may be possible. It’s amazing enough that he was there, bravely doing what was best for his family and his fellow workers.

    Here’s to your grandfather, and all those active in that long struggle. Cheers!

  10. Pingback: Friday, May 20 Heller Estates & Hertneky Special Pittsburgh Wine Dinner & Book Intro Event - The Carlton Restaurant

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