Paul Hertneky

Paul Hertneky

Over twenty-six years, Paul Hertneky has written stories, essays, and scripts for the Boston Globe, Athens News, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, ​New Hampshire Union Leader, NBC News, The Comedy Channel, Gourmet, Eating Well, Traveler’s Tales, The Exquisite Corpse, National Public Radio, Public Radio International, Adbusters and many more. His work centers on culture, food, industry, the environment, and travel, winning him a Solas Award, and two James Beard Award nominations. He is the author, most recently, of Rust Belt Boy: Stories of an American Childhood. In 2016, he was named one of “5 over 50” notable authors by Poets & Writers Magazine. A graduate of the Bennington Writing Seminars, he serves on the faculty of Chatham University.


In this episode, Arlan interviews Paul Hertneky, the author of Rust Belt Boy: Stories of An American Childhood.  According to Hertneky, the book is a memoir illustrated with historical facts of the geographical area. Written as a collection of essays tied together by Hertneky’s life growing up in Ambridge, Pennsylvania, and a specific riverfront plateau in the area, the book explores the push-pull/love-hate relationships that many Americans experience with their hometowns, the diaspora from rust belt towns, and what that migration looked like then, now and what it could look like in the future. 

In this episodes Hertneky discusses:

  • How readers not in the Rust Belt connect to the book
  • How local history was overlooked and not talked about in his early education
  • Where the idea for the book came from
  • The challenges he faced writing a longer piece
  • How he sees the Rust Belt changing in the future

Mentioned This Episode


  • “One of the hallmarks of growing up in Ambridge, and I’ve been told this is true about other industrial towns in the Rust Belt, is that we paid little attention to the history that came before. As I wrote in the book, when you’re an immigrant or an immigrant population the history was ‘their history’ not ‘our history’ so we walked right by it.” – Paul Hertneky
  • “You need to be very skilled to write engaging history and people are sort of accustomed now to narrative history and I wasn’t prepared to take liberties with history that I would have had to do to construct that.” – Paul Hertneky

Reach out to City Books


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