“Car Bombs and Cookie Tables:” The Best and Worst of Life in Youngstown

By Justin Wier

Belt Magazine is holding a launch event for its book “Car Bombs to Cookie Tables: The Youngstown Anthology” at B&O Station Banquet Hall this Friday at 6:00 p.m.

The event will feature contributors as well as hors d’oeuvres, drinks and a cookie table.

Christopher Barzak, YSU English professor and author, and poet Rochelle Hurt will be reading from their contributions.

Jacqueline Marino, co-editor of the anthology, said the event will be a party for Youngstown.

“It’s a celebration of the literature of Youngstown,” Marino said.

She said the anthology she and her co-editor have put together is honest and confrontational.

“Hopefully, it will help people see Youngstown in new ways,” Marino said.

Phil Kidd, owner of Youngstown Nation and associate director at Youngstown Cityscape, said the book is not a cheerleader piece.

“With many of these pieces they are true accounts of struggle and how difficult it can be to live here,” Kidd said. “What you read in these anthologies is a real true account — no holds barred, no filter — of the good, the bad and the ugly of what it’s like to live in Youngstown.”

He said he thinks the book will appeal to everyone, not just those who want the positive side of things or those who are frustrated with the city.

“This is the whole spectrum, so I think because of that it’s a very credible publication, and I think it will be well-received by the community,” Kidd said.

Belt Magazine has previously published similar anthologies on Cleveland, Detroit and Cincinnati. The previous volumes have been big successes. Marino and her co-editor Will Miller both have ties to the Youngstown area and brought the idea of a Youngstown anthology to Belt.

“Youngstown seems like it had to happen,” Marino said. “There are so many stories that haven’t been told.”

She said they put out a notice for contributors on social media, and the response was overwhelming. They reached out to certain people they wanted included but left submissions open to increase diversity.

“We didn’t want to make it a book just for established writers. We wanted anybody that had something to say,” Marino said.

The anthology format also allows for the diversity of expression to be captured as well.

“You can have non-fiction, next to a profile, next to a poem, next to a photograph,” Marino said.

Bill Lawson, executive director of the Mahoning Valley Historical Society, said they frequently rely on first person accounts — such as those collected in the anthology — in their work.

“First person accounts are very important to understanding the context of a community’s history, and it’s what gives life to future research projects in terms of understanding the people and the events that were going on in a community at any given time,” Lawson said.

Kidd said he contributed a piece about his time in Youngstown because he believes in Belt Magazine.

“[Just] the fact that they’re a new rust belt exclusive publishing company, and I think their content is extremely good — both their online long form stuff that they do daily and their anthology books,” Kidd said.