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Welcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube: Chasing Fear and Finding Home in the Great White North

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By the time Blair Braverman was eighteen, she had left her home in California, moved to arctic Norway to learn to drive sled dogs, and found work as a tour guide on a glacier in Alaska. Determined to carve out a life as a “tough girl”—a young woman who confronts danger without apology—she slowly developed the strength and resilience the landscape demanded of her.

By turns funny and sobering, bold and tender, Welcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube brilliantly recounts Braverman’s adventures in Norway and Alaska. Settling into her new surroundings, Braverman was often terrified that she would lose control of her dog team and crash her sled, or be attacked by a polar bear, or get lost on the tundra. Above all, she worried that, unlike the other, gutsier people alongside her, she wasn’t cut out for life on the frontier. But no matter how out of place she felt, one thing was clear: she was hooked on the North. On the brink of adulthood, Braverman was determined to prove that her fears did not define her—and so she resolved to embrace the wilderness and make it her own.

Assured, honest, and lyrical, Welcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube paints a powerful portrait of self-reliance in the face of extraordinary circumstance. Braverman endures physical exhaustion, survives being buried alive in an ice cave, and drives her dogs through a whiteout blizzard to escape crooked police. Through it all, she grapples with love and violence—navigating a grievous relationship with a fellow musher, and adapting to the expectations of her Norwegian neighbors—as she negotiates the complex demands of being a young woman in a man’s land.

Weaving fast-paced adventure writing and ethnographic journalism with elegantly wrought reflections on identity, Welcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube captures the triumphs and the perils of Braverman’s journey to self-discovery and independence in a landscape that is as beautiful as it is unforgiving.

274 pages, Hardcover

First published July 5, 2016

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Blair Braverman

4 books380 followers

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 846 reviews
Profile Image for Kalen.
578 reviews80 followers
December 15, 2016
I didn't read any of the reviews of this book until I finished it. I loved this book and if you want one that features fewer men and their feelings, goddamn write it yourself. This is Braverman's story and she told it the way she wanted to.
Profile Image for Stephanie.
1,137 reviews
August 8, 2016
Do you enjoy reading about one young woman's self-absorbed journey towards adulthood when you would rather be reading about her time in Alaska and Norway? Then this is the book for you. If you're hoping for anything insightful beyond the fact that women, everywhere, are discriminated against in a myriad of ways when in a male-dominated field, then skip this one.
Profile Image for Kelly.
Author 6 books1,205 followers
January 9, 2017
A completely engaging memoir about Braverman's experiences finding her "true north" in her young life. I loved how vivid the Alaskan and Norwegian settings became and I love how full of character the people she interacted with were.

More than this being a "finding herself through adventure" memoir -- something so rare with a lady at the helm -- this is very much about being one of those women who survived to tell a story about the cruelties of misogyny. This is a book that deals frankly with not only sexual assault, but also of the despicable ways that men will gaslight and mentally anguish young women. Braverman wrestles with this throughout, and there's no real conclusion here. Rather, it's left there, because wrestling with her own experiences is part of her growing up and a part of her history...and future. There's a particularly powerful scene wherein one of the men Braverman grew to trust unabashedly makes a rape joke and she has to pause and look at the depth that misogyny is a disease.

Readers looking for diversity, it's absolutely worth noting that Braverman is Jewish, and while it's not a huge part of the story, it is something that comes up when she's given the opportunity to be a guest speaker at the folk school she attended. Likewise, her partner is a trans man. This relationship, and the way she feels with it while back in Norway, is raw and hard and also realistic and beautiful.

I've read some other reviews that have said this is good for the beginning and end and that was enough. But it's that murky, kinda-can't-pull-it-together middle that allows the end to be what it is. Likewise, other reviews noted that so much of her coming of age is in the stories of men around her. And...that seems like a thing that's obvious because her experiences as a woman in lands where women don't tend to venture for fear of their own safety and for fear of defying social conventions are just that. They're peppered by men.

I'd hand this to a teenager who wants a real adventure story of a young woman. I'd hand it to those who love memoirs by women. I'd hand it to those looking for a "feminist Jack London." There's a lot here.
Profile Image for Jessica.
Author 29 books5,609 followers
June 3, 2019
I kept hearing about this book when it came out, and I occasionally get onto her viral twitter threads about her sled dogs and enjoy them, so when this popped up for sale on Kindle, I thought Why not? I was especially intrigued when I realized that she had lived for a good chunk of time in Norway, and I was interested to read about someone doing the thing I had dreamed of doing in high school, namely going to Norway as an exchange student, and then later attending a folk school.

But . . . meh? I feel like this was more exploratory than explanatory. Blair, through no fault of her own, seems to fall into situations with absolutely trash men. Pervy exchange dad. Misogynistic dog mushers. Rather than planting her Feminist Flag and declaring, I am woman, hear me roar! She tends to just . . . silently put up with it? And then hate herself later? She fantasizes about going to back to see some of these men who have mistreated her, not to tell them they're trash or kick them in the crotch, but to see if she could stand there and take their abuse again without backing down or running away . . . which is . . . horrible? Wrong? Not healthy?

There's honestly very little about dog mushing, and a great deal about her sitting around with drunk assholes being propositioned. I spent the first part of the book tense and upset, thinking that any second she was going to be raped. Not that she put herself into bad situations or was any way at fault, but that she is coolly relating stories of the worst just . . . ASSHOLES and how they talked to her and about her, and I thought, this is it, she is relating how she stuck it out even after some serious assault . . . which is kinda true, but not really. Her first boyfriend? Yeah, that actually was rape, and I kinda got the impression that she figured that out later. But then she emailed him and apologized for not "being nicer." I think she was trying to guilt him into admitting that he hadn't been nice to her, but instead he was like, Yep, you're a harpy. And then . . . that's it.

Looking up more info on her now that I finished the book, I see this book called "a take down of the patriarchy" and that's really misleading. Does she expose the patriarchy? Yes. A bit. But she doesn't take a stand about any of it, and I get the feeling that she wrote this book as a way of proving that she wasn't crazy, that she was hoping to validate her thoughts about what happened. Which I hope it did, because I really don't think there's any closure. It was a very odd book, really, and I even think that the title is misleading. She was told "Welcome to the g-d ice cube" when she arrived at a dogsled camp atop a glacier, but the place where she eventually found a sort of home was in Norway, although there is about one person there who seemed to like her, and it was a weird relationship, frankly. And now she lives in Wisconsin? So . . . I feel like this is still a work in progress, basically. I would love to see her go back over this in a few years and maybe make some definite statements about some of these events.

Also, there could be a lot more dog mushing.
Profile Image for E.K. Johnston.
Author 22 books2,316 followers
March 24, 2016
Slightly outside of my usual wheelhouse, this ARC is a memoir. I met the author at the Midwest Independent Booksellers Association Author Social last week, and she was awesome. Also it's a great title.

It's about dog-sledding and growing up and, it must be said, the horrible thing that men do to girls and women. But it's mostly a story about loving something, and not letting go of it, no matter what the world does around you, and I like that sort of thing in fiction, so reading about it for REAL was even better.

The book comes out in July, and I really recommend it.
Profile Image for Sharon.
248 reviews101 followers
August 13, 2018
I have been requesting this book from my library for over a year. I think it was on one of Oprah’s lists at some point and it had instant appeal: the title, the dogsledding, the soul-searching of a young woman, and the promise of Arctic adventures.

But nope, nope, nope. Not until the 25 percent mark do we meet any dogs. The book goes back and forth between author Blair Braverman’s past adventures in Norway and Alaska, and her current life there. As often happens when there is a past and current story, one (her current life) pales considerably.

While I didn’t dislike Braverman, and definitely found her “tough,” I didn’t really like getting in her head. Her focus on “Far,” her host father, and her other relationships with men, were distracting and kind of cast a shadow over the whole novel. Strengths included any mention of the dogs, her station on the Alaskan glacier when tourists were forced to spend the night, and her early training. But there wasn’t nearly enough to make this worthwhile.
Profile Image for Judith.
1,488 reviews71 followers
September 28, 2016
You just have to love a book with such a cool title. Here's a young Jewish girl from California who is so drawn to cold places that at 18, instead of going to college, she heads off to Northern Norway to attend dog-sledding school. And she loves it! She loves being freezing cold and constantly in survival mode. She eventually goes home and attends college (in Maine) but summers in Alaska where she works on a glacier giving dogsled tours to tourists. Her living and working conditions are deplorable. Her vivid descriptions of her skin falling off, and her use of duct tape are almost nauseating but she puts up with it all because she loves the cold and the dogs. She alternates between Alaska and Norway every summer and is never so happy as when she is on the edge of survival.

The problem with this book is there is a drastic difference between her writing about nature and her writing about her relationships with other humans. When she writes about the dogs and her surroundings her book comes to life. When she writes about people there's a dullness. All the characters are minimalists and their dialogue flat. Her Norwegian characters seem either drunk or boorish or asleep and her American characters don't fare much better. Late in the book she finds true love with Quince, whom she mentions in passing is transgender. She never tells us whether she met him as a woman, nor how the change might have affected the relationship. I'm not saying it's any of my business but why disclose such a detail without further explanation in a book which appears to be sharing the most intimate secrets of her life?

Profile Image for Stefani.
Author 10 books44 followers
August 15, 2016
I listened to Blair's book on audio, which was such a treat given the nature of this deeply personal and self-reflective story about a young woman's search for herself through pushing boundaries. I actually went to high school with Blair, which made the read even more interesting! But I think most women would find her story really compelling, especially those who enjoy books with a streak of feminism or books about the outdoors. Blair is amazingly articulate about her own traumatic experiences related to the vulnerability of being female, but at the same time her story is at its core deeply empowering. And it gives a look into the landscape and people of places I may never see: Alaskan glaciers and northern Norway. Can't wait to see what she comes out with next!
Profile Image for Nadine in NY Jones.
2,725 reviews214 followers
July 23, 2019
I really love Braverman’s tweets about her dogs. She’s a gifted writer and makes me laugh, cringe, commiserate, cry, and love. When I saw she had written a book, I immediately borrowed a copy.

But it’s not the same Braverman. On Twitter she is knowledgeable, confident, brave, and happy. But in this book she seems unsure and unhappy. I wanted to hug her and remind her that she is brave, that even writing this book is an act of bravery.

It’s difficult to review memoirs.

I thought this would be about dog-sledding, and training for the Iditarod. The cover implied dog-sledding. And there are dogs, now and then, but Blair doesn’t get her own team until the end of the book. The titular “goddamn ice cube” is a glacier in Alaska where Blair worked for a few summers giving tourists rides on dog sleds.

The dogs, when they do appear, are vivid and wonderful.
The dogs flowed, a perfect thrilling engine. Their legs stretched out like pistons; their ears and tongues bounced in unison. Their running had nothing to do with me. They wouldn’t have stopped if I’d asked them to. They were beautiful. They were so beautiful.

The people tend to be both quirky and flat.
After dinner, the principal took the podium. He spoke of adventure, of learning the rhythms of the polar night, of learning the howls of dogs and the textures of snow. He spoke of bonding into the kind of community made possible only through isolation and hardship. The principal wore black pants and no shirt. He had binder clips pinched to his nipples, and occasionally, as he talked, he tweaked the clips with his fingers; he was proud of his tolerance for pain.

I mean, that’s kind of odd, right? But it’s just laid out there on the page and no further comments made. (The principal described is one of the good guys in this story. A lot - A LOT- of the men Blair encounters are absolute trash humans.). Part of the flatness might be because it’s probably difficult to write about people when you know those people can read what you wrote. (Well, I know I would feel really uncomfortable.) The dogs, of course, will not be reading this. And even if dogs could read, they would be fine with anything their beloved human has to say, so there’s no worries.

This jumps around in time, which was ok because the sections set in Mortenhals, Norway, just struck me as incredibly depressing and uncomfortable in various ways, and the other sections (set variously in Lillehammer, California, Alaska, Maine, and Wisconsin) were depressing and uncomfortable in other ways, and each time I was glad of the break from the particular type of discomfort. If I can summarize it in a sentence: she feels driven to push herself to the most uncomfortable situation, and then disparages herself for feeling uncomfortable. Again and again she puts herself in a tough spot (eg: hitchhiking alone in southern Norway in the middle of the night, then setting up a tent by the side of the road, then panicking with fear of being attacked, which I think is a perfectly normal and valid fear!!)

The descriptions of landscapes and places are gorgeous and even poetic.
Outside the window, in the bright gray sky, seagulls dipped and called all night, and I kept jolting awake, blinking against the light. Arild had given me a small bedroom above the front door of the shop, and its contents were unfamiliar: a table covered with jars of paintbrushes and shards of broken glass; a short orange bed with a mattress of rough-cut foam. Lying in the bed, my knees bent to fit, I felt comfortably blank. So here I was again. At one point I walked to the bathroom and looked out the window to see that the sheep had escaped from their pasture and lay in mounds around the diesel pump. I rubbed my eyes and went back to bed.

But finally, when she’s settled with Quince, and racing with her team, she becomes the Blair I know from Twitter.
Jenga set a quick pace, and the trail was packed hard, so the first turns were tricky, slick and careening. I had a new sled, light and wobbly, responsive to the slightest lean, and I threw my whole weight into the turns, sending up sheets of snow each time I skidded around a corner. My headlamp lit a ring on the dogs and the snow just ahead of them, so for a while—half an hour, maybe—I saw each turn as it came and had only moments to prepare for it. Then a light through the trees ahead—another dog team, musher silhouetted against the glow he cast onto the trail. When I came up beside him our dogs looked at each other, two teams sizing each other up at a run, twelve tongues bouncing, and then I called to my dogs and their legs churned harder and we were alone again. The sky through the trees was lit with stars.

Yes! I got choked up the way I always do with tales of animal bravery and joy. I hope she writes another book, and all her dogs are with her.

words I looked up:
corpse chair - i still don’t know what this is.
Profile Image for Jafar.
728 reviews232 followers
June 30, 2017
This is an interesting and well-written memoir, but I don't understand why some memoirists can't just stick to the point. If I read a memoir about a girl from California moving to the Norwegian and Alaskan Arctic, it's because I want to know what made her do that and how arctic life is from the perspective of a Californian. Please spare me the sappy details of how great your current boyfriend is, or how manipulative the last one was.
Profile Image for Dav.
250 reviews20 followers
September 17, 2016
This is a somewhat strange, but very well written and edited memoir of an unusual young woman with a fascination of the North. The strangeness mostly comes from Blair's disassociative style, and the dry observation tone that seems to be a Scandinavian trait as the tone felt similar to the Swedish memoir The Fly Trap. There is a subdued emotional intensity throughout, and frankly I teared up about half a dozen different times toward the end for various reasons.

As a father of daughters, some parts of it were hard to read in the beginning, but Blair revealed some truths that we fathers need to reckon with.
Profile Image for Molly.
604 reviews
August 7, 2016
What happened to the good old days when people wrote about their exceptional adventures without turning it into a journey about self-discovery and unexceptional traumas?
This book is less about the author's time in the Arctic and Alaska and more about how a lot of men are pervy or rapey, but after awhile your self doubt turns to self trust and zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz
Dear aspiring memoirists of the world: Your readers are not your therapists. Remember, WE paid YOU for this time together.

Side note: If you want a good book about dog sledding, I highly recommend Gary Paulsen's Winterdance.
Profile Image for Mauri.
881 reviews20 followers
January 15, 2020
I really warred with myself about how to rate this and have finally decided to leave it unrated.

If this had been fiction, it would have been one-star, no question. I read fiction to escape, and this had too much of the real world in it: sexual discrimination, harassment, and assault; fraught relationships with other women just because your hobbies and interests happen to coincide with stereotypically male pursuits; a poor ratio of navel-gazing to action, etc.

But it isn't fiction, it's one woman's autobiography of a time in her life when she was trying to figure out who she was, when she was dealing with the gatekeepers all women have faced, the boyfriends and the gross older men that craft elaborate fantasies to keep young women under control, with leaving your community and joining a new ones, of those jolts that come when someone you trusted betrays your trust because remaining in the in-group is more important than their relationship with you.

Braverman writes about sex and sexual relationships in a way I've only seen addressed by female friends in private, on closed messages boards. She writes, "What I feared most was men, and what I feared for was my body, and yet my body wanted men, and there was no answer for any of it." And I felt that, with a thump in my chest. She writes about her panic when she felt like sex and her boyfriend, Quince, didn't, or vice versa. What was wrong with them? Nothing, she just had no context for it, for it being okay.

What it comes down to is this: I don't know who should read this. Not me; I'm going to have nightmares and obsessive thoughts for weeks, and I should have taken the out an online friend gave me, that I don't need to bear witness to every woman's account of sexual assault. Women? But they don't need to bear witness either. Men, maybe, to gain a better understanding of the absolute mindfuck of being a teenage girl and young woman. Maybe. Parents, teachers, people hoping to live abroad? I don't doubt that Braverman needed to write this, but who needs to read it?

Finally, what annoyed me the most were the blurbs and the summaries I read before I started this, that made it sound like it was 90% dog-sledding, 8% self-discovery in environments not hospitable to woman-shaped humans, 2% bad break-up. No. This is 50% self-discovery in environments not hospitable to woman-shaped humans, 30% The Ways Men Destroy Women, 15% recovery from emotional and sexual abuse, and 5% dog-sledding. Shame on anyone who read this and decided to elide that 45% for the sake of pulling in more readers.

Warnings for accounts of disappointing consensual sex, rape, sexual harassment, sexist comments, Braverman being accidentally trapped in a ice cave just big enough for her body, elder abuse, mention of animal harm (committed by other animals). So-called "mail order brides" from Thailand are a thing in the area of Norway where Braverman lived, and the comments some of the men make about them are exceedingly gross.
Profile Image for Kaethe.
6,362 reviews456 followers
January 26, 2019
I am just stunned by Braverman's fearlessness.

Cold weather makes me want to read about colder weather; dog sledding has all those appealing doggies. Happily this was lying about the house waiting for me.

Be warned: there isn't nearly as much dog sledding as I would have liked. Unlike say Winterdance (a beloved memoir with lots about training and such) the sport isn't the point. The point is loving the cold and the Northwoods. The point is that nature isn't even a tiny bit as scary as the men a teen girl/young woman has to put up with.

The fearlessness is in the revelation which astounds me, even as so many women are speaking up about sexual assaults and harassment they have withstood. Each such revelation astounds me.

Yes, I know that the victim isn't to blame, but I also know the abuse and indignity that is heaped upon anyone telling her experience. To dredge it up, to spend years remembering, and then to share that with others: it is a strength and a heroism I can't begin to imagine. Someday may we all be so brave.

Library copy
Profile Image for Karen.
619 reviews12 followers
October 3, 2016
Should've listened to the good reviewers of Goodreads on this one. I was too totally sucked in by the awesome title to pay attention. I thought I would get a story about adventure, the intense cold and things that are completely foreign to me. The kind of story that is so far outside of your world that you can lose yourself in it. I didn't. I got a memoir about a young girl growing into a young woman and going through struggles that were obviously very stressful to her and completely legitimate, just not what I wanted to read about. The fact that the whole thing took place in Alaska and Norway felt pretty incidental. Just a convenient and unique backdrop to hold up the rest of the story. Could've happened anywhere. I didn't enjoy the jumpy feel of the narration and I didn't connect with any of the characters. This is one I don't recommend.
Profile Image for Cynthia Dunn.
160 reviews110 followers
August 17, 2016
I think I'm too much of a wuss to give this two stars. I have to think about it. I agree with the reviewers who were disappointed that it had more to do with her feelings about the men in her life (for the most part they were horrendous) than about life in the north and dog-sledding. As someone who loves winter, cold, and snow that was what I was expecting. Maybe I was wrong in that expectation but it was a slow slog for me.
Profile Image for Ann.
84 reviews35 followers
May 21, 2019
Parts of this were extremely interesting and I have respect for the author even as I felt concerned for her, in the same way I felt for Cheryl Strayed when I read Wild. Like, this is dangerous! Be careful! All of her encounters with predatory males (including her host father when she did a high school year in Norway! Appalling!) feel so true and are scary and infuriating. It fit together for me with the book as a whole and I wasn't disappointed like some reviewers that she spent time on those personal subjects and that it wasn't a straightforward adventure story. It's her story, she can write what she wants! I couldn't rate it higher though as I read it in a scattershot way and skimmed through parts that didn't appeal to me personally (I just wasn't that into the life of the small town in Norway where she lived for a while).

If people want more dog related material, she has written some great magazine articles about dog sledding, and has an excellent twitter with many glorious dog photos.
Profile Image for Aimee.
65 reviews
March 10, 2021
Unfortunately, not the most engaging piece of writing. She was a brave young woman. She left her home at a young age and fell in love with the great white north but I didn't connect with her story or the people that she talks about. The relationships didn't go very deep. The day-to-day living descriptions were not that interesting. As someone who loves the outdoors and adventures, I wish she would have been more descriptive about the Great White North and the mushing experiences. I also don't understand why she would return to the same area where she was treated with disrespect and dishonor. It's definitely a coming-of-age story that might interest young adults, but it didn't do much for me.
Profile Image for Ava.
Author 1 book36 followers
March 21, 2016
Love the north? Want to comfortably experience it from afar? This excellent first book is an account of an achingly young person growing into the realities of young-womanhood in all its nuanced harshness, set in situations even harsher - wrestling hungry dogs, negotiating the social hierarchies of frost-bitten mushers and stoic Norwegians. The story is as gentle as a sled ride over rough terrain, but with pitch-perfect dialogue and crisp, unflinching portraits of difficult people and difficult places, Braverman's memoir reads as if written by a seasoned journalist. If Farley Mowat and John McPhee had a genius granddaughter...
Profile Image for Ellis.
1,208 reviews134 followers
July 8, 2017
This is a book about how men are scum:

"I thought of a another man, the day before, who had wrapped his arms around me from behind. Treasure, he'd whispered, you're north of the moral circle now.

"But he was tugging my long underwear off my hips, kissing me even as I pressed my mouth shut. Pulling a condom from his pocket, rolling it on. As soon as I saw it, my heart sank: he had come here for this. I pressed my knees together. He shoved them apart easily. 'Please stop-' I whispered, but he put a finger to my lips. 'Shh,' he said. 'We don't want everyone to hear us.'"

"But one night, two of the male guides stood and watched me, murmuring about the way my wet shirt stuck to my skin. I felt intimately exposed, humiliated, as I dipped my head once more into the bucket to rinse the last soap from my hair, feeling their eyes on my back, making my body theirs. By the time I stood up, they were gone. I wondered what they would have done if I wasn't Dan's girl. I stopped washing my hair, and wore more hats."

"Though there were a few female mushers, the men on the glacier dominated social life; their authority came with and edge of sexism that seemed at once inevitable and disconcerting. In my first weeks, men flicked their gaze down my body, then caught my eye and smiled. Someone walked behind me in the snow, and when I slowed to walk beside him, he urged me forward: 'We don't get this kind of view much around here.'"

and although I was hoping for more dog sledding, I'm pretty partial to Norway & misandry, so this was quite enjoyable.
Profile Image for Jennifer.
303 reviews
August 4, 2016
I finished (after putting aside, then picking up again), but at times felt I needed a little mushing myself. The author's tales of her time mainly in Norway and Alaska were at times interesting--but for me there was too much emphasis on her emotional state--mainly her always feeling unsafe and insecure. I came away having the impression that only someone over privileged would have the time to be so constantly self-reflective. I thought I would be getting more adventure and dog sledding.
Profile Image for Beth Rietveld.
3 reviews
July 20, 2016
This book was as much about coming of age and discovering the innermost workings in oneself as it was about living in cold places and learning about dogsledding. The relationship between Braverman and Arild was beautiful and poignant. The trials of coping with some of the issues that most woman have confronted at some point in their lives was described impeccably. Great first book by Braverman.
Profile Image for Philip.
1,357 reviews68 followers
March 3, 2023
This has been on my TBR shelf ever since my 2017 trip to Iceland, where I saw it prominently displayed on every bookstore shelf anywhere, so not sure why I only got to it now.

But I did, finally, and…wow, just not what I was expecting. And sure, this is her story so she can obviously write if any way she wants to (duh)…but I was just, I dunno, expecting way more "fun adventures on the ice with polar bears and Balto" and a LOT less "truly horrible tales of an insecure young girl coming of age in the Alaskan and Norwegian arctic while dealing (poorly) with some SERIOUSLY terrible men."

But that's probably on me for not doing my homework, or at least reading more GR reviews. So three stars for being well written and it's seemingly-happy ending…but I really need to go read some Fredrik Backman now, to get rid of that "bad Scandinavian" taste in my mouth.

Interestingly - or more probably just unrelatedly - in Googling Braverman I learned that in 2018, she (and separately, her husband) participated in the reality show "Naked and Afraid," where she and a stranger were dropped in the South African bush to see if they could survive with basically nothing for 21 days. And while she apparently bailed after just two weeks (i.e., thirteen-plus days more than I would have lasted), the experience provided the basis for her first novel, Small Game, which just came out last year and which I will also probably let sit on my TBR shelf for another five years before actually getting to it…
Profile Image for Bryan Alexander.
Author 4 books271 followers
February 16, 2017
How does a young woman learn to live in the extreme north?

A friend recommended Welcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube to me because of our shared love for the north country. We both live in Vermont, which has a fairly serious winter. My wife and I are homesteaders, so we have learned a great deal about surviving in just barely sub-alpine conditions.

Braverman's memoir does meet those interests to a degree. We follow her to a remote location in Norway, as well as to an Alaska glacier. She learns how to race dogs, how to stay warm, and about those two different if allied cultures. Being very young - late teens through early 20s - she also learns about herself.

But exploring nature is really secondary to Welcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube. The primary subject is surviving a dystopian world of male desire. Braverman's world is well stocked with terrible men who paw at her, mock, and pursue her. One repeatedly forces sex on her to the point of rape. Men her age, older, and younger ones, rich and poor target her ruthlessly. They are also generally awful: mean, badly dressed, ugly, ignorant. It's a sexual nightmare zone.

Only one male escapes this system, Aldrid, an elderly (65 years old, I think) shopkeeper who clearly has no designs on her. Blair ultimately finds a boyfriend she can be happy with, one not from either Norway or Alaska, but he's a transman (female to male) (here's an article about their relationship), and so stands out from the rest of the testosterone-crazed mob. (The hormone is important. Quince, the happy love interest, goes through mood changes as he becomes more masculine, disturbing Blair (183). Otherwise Quince is fine to her.)

Unusual for such a narrative, our narrator finds little comfort or support in other women. They rarely help her. Blair usually can't help them as they, inevitably, suffer the oafish or cruel attentions of men. Her mother isn't a significant character. Welcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube is not about sisterhood. Braverman seems to have better, at least more positive and rewarding, connections with sled dogs.

Also unusual is the heroine's lack of romantic imagination, or even interest. The text gives the impression of a teenager without any interest in sex or romance. She does not get disillusioned because she doesn't seem to come with any illusions. Male attention and threats come out of the blue, invading not only her personal space and body but also her mental landscape. Encountering other women's romantic interests, Blair does not intervene, either to compete for male attention or to pry women loose from bad situations. Indeed, in a passage near the book's center, she telling describes one female acquaintance in very alien terms:
Two days of the week, I shared my tent with a musher named Stacy; but she was dating one of the male guides, and therefore seemed a member of another gender entirely. (159)
Braverman turns to nature for solace, which is challenging given the north country's ferocity. There are fine anecdotes about accidentally getting buried in snow, of running a demanding sled dog race, of calming suddenly stranded tourists on the Alaskan glacier. There are some details about the environment - fewer than I would have expected. In the course of these experiences Blair is often anxious and/or physically miserable, and grows to confidence.

A significant chunk of the book goes to the sociology of a small Norwegian town, where Blair stays several times. This is less about arctic-zone stresses and more concerned with how people deal with each other in a remote location. We learn about lonely men, unhappy wives, family micropolitics, boating, sheep-shearing, and how people entertain themselves. The folk school is fascinating, but I wanted more. My overall feel for the town was sadness, or resignation.

Overall, a good memoir, especially for anyone interested in women's autobiography, gender, or the north country. I don't know to whom the dystopian element will appeal.
Profile Image for Kathrin Passig.
Author 49 books392 followers
December 2, 2020
Ich habe die Leseprobe heruntergeladen, weil die Schlittenhundefotos von Blair Braverman bei Twitter sehr lustig sind. Überraschenderweise ist es gar kein Buch über Hunde, sondern eigentlich eines über alte Männer in Norwegen. Ich mochte vor allem den kompetenten, sparsamen Erzählstil, in diesem Stil bin ich bereit, beliebig viel über beliebige Themen zu lesen. Außerdem finde ich sehr gut, was hier alles weggelassen wird. Andere hätten halbe Kapitel über das Schlafen in Schneelöchern oder die Schönheit des Nordlichts geschrieben, hier nichts dergleichen, eine kurze Erwähnung, das war's.
Profile Image for Allen Adams.
517 reviews28 followers
August 9, 2016

The quest to discover where we truly belong can be an arduous one. So many people spend countless months and years striving to figure out just who they want to be. It’s a journey that can prove to be daunting, surprising, rewarding and terrifying – sometimes all at the same time.

That is the journey laid out by Blair Braverman in “Welcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube: Chasing Fear and Finding Home in the Great White North.” It’s the story of a young woman whose inner compass continually pointed north, to the lands of ice and snow; places where environmental hostility and overarching masculinity conspired to create an inhospitable domain for an inexperienced woman.

Places in which Braverman was determined to survive…and thrive.

From a young age, the California-born Braverman knew that her destiny lay somewhere in the north. She lived there briefly with her parents at 10 and had an ill-fated run as an exchange student at 16. While still a teenager, she made her way to multiple isolated outposts – she was an exchange student in Norway, where she also spent time at a folk school – a school devoted to teaching the traditions of Norwegian outdoor life; things like dogsledding and wilderness techniques.

She also spent time as a tour guide atop an Alaskan glacier, a place where she found what she thought was love and turned out to be something much less. She learned much about the care and maintenance of sled dogs while also providing cheerful assistance to a variety of tour groups. She went to college (Colby College, to be exact) and asked herself the hard questions and ultimately found that she still needed the North.

Much of the story takes place in the small Norwegian town of Mortenhals, an isolated hamlet where Braverman fell in with an aged shopkeeper named Arild. Slowly, she becomes a part of the fabric of the town, assisting Arild with his work at the shop and helping him with a project aimed at maintaining a connection to the history and traditions of the place.

As she bounces back and forth through space and time, the threads of her identity spin together. The reader bears witness as she battles through obstacles external and internal alike in an effort to become the version of herself that she truly wants to be.

“Welcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube” is a stunning piece of work. Braverman lays herself bare, exposing all of her desires, her insecurities and her triumphs in a compulsively readable tangle of raw nerves, brutal honesty, self-deprecation and biting wit. She allows room for not just her inner strength, but her doubts and fears as well, striking a balance that brings her story into vivid focus.

The landscape is a constant presence throughout; Braverman renders her environments with such meticulous detail and loving language that they are essentially characters in their own right (and primary characters at that). We are deposited onto the snow and ice right alongside Braverman; we suffer alongside her and cheer her triumphs. Her victories and defeats are ours. Her broad and celebratory spirit shines through on every page; truthfully, this combination of compelling storytelling and beautiful prose reaches heights to which every memoir should aspire.

“Welcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube” is a chilly breeze blown across a snowy field, a cup of coffee shared around a tiny table on a frigid morning, a full-tilt dogsled ride that is both dangerous and under control. It is a grizzled shopkeeper and a scorned lover and a woman who is far stronger than even she understands. It is sharp and smart and poignant and wildly funny and just plain wild.

And last but not least – it is an absolutely phenomenal book.

Fans of adventure writing, fans of autobiographical writing – hell, fans of GOOD writing – all will be rewarded for embarking on the journey that Blair Braverman has laid before them.
Profile Image for Kerri Anne.
469 reviews39 followers
August 8, 2020
I've hereby decided there are three types of memoirs:

Type 1: Celebrity memoirs—Books written and published solely because of, and centered around, the author's celebrity. Usually they're funny, and self-deprecating, and when we like them, we like them because we're a fan of the celebrity in question and/or are captivated by some aspect of the business/sport/achievement in or for which they became famous.

Type 2: Wait, What Is This? memoirs—In my experience these are books that should have been diary entries, therapy sessions, and/or personal/narrative essays. Often, they suffer from disorganization and/or a lack of a central tenet or theme that is also universally applicable and/or interesting to a wide variety of readers. Alternately titled: White Privilege Memoirs.

Type 3: Memorable memoirs—Important stories by humans with something to say. These are the books that spur us to action, and make us think. These are the stories that make everyone who reads them better, more awake, more compassionate, and hopefully, more empathetic humans. These are the memoirs we need more of.

Welcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube is a strange combination of Type 1 and Type 2 from the memoir list above, and while I'll never advocate for any woman not telling her own story, the story that ended up in this particular book felt half-baked, meandering, and altogether not the story Braverman could (and arguably should) have told. (See also: This book needed a MUCH better developmental editor, if it had one at all. So many books need better editors, and whenever I run into one I want to kindly scream, "Hire me! Hire my husband! Hire this person I know who is a fantastic editor!")

This book was a bizarre combination of would-be female empowerment mixed with a celebration, manifestation, and in some places, an outright defense of old-school patriarchal values, attitudes, and behaviors that still permeate the North, dominate the sport in which Braverman has gained celebrity status, and which have been so unendingly damaging to her as an individual, and to womxn across the globe for centuries.

Those parts of this book were extremely off-putting to me, and I don't think I would have finished it had it not been for my appreciation for Braverman as one of the few female mushers trying to make a name for herself in a harsh world swallowed by ice and littered with self-aggrandizing, toxic masculinity.

I won't read another book by Braverman centered on what felt and looked too often (to me) like half-finished thoughts she should have shared with a therapist to gain insight, uncover her identity, and find her fire after suffering through abusive relationships. But should she decide to write a book centered on her experience as a female musher, and maybe even about how her whiteness and history in the North made that entry simpler for her than it would have been for a BIPOC individual? Well, I'll be first in line to read something like that.

[Two stars for some moments of real brilliance underneath layers of dude-infested ice.]
Profile Image for Jessie (Zombie_likes_cake).
1,143 reviews40 followers
February 7, 2017
The main problem the book has is its own marketing: the cover, the title and the brief synopsis suggest this is a slightly humorous adventure travel memoir involving dog sledding. And whereas those aspects they are present but they are the background, the foreground is dominated by self-discovery and the sometimes problematic relationships the author has while being in Norway or Alaska. And it it really is nowhere near as funny as such a title suggests.
Still, I liked the book, I really liked Braverman's style which helped me to overcome the disappointment that settled in when I realized how little there would be about the dogs and the sledding. Considering the book is on the shorter side she could have included more anecdotes in that vein to actually show us her passion about sledding and the love for the dogs instead of occasionally mentioning it. The book would have really benefited from more of that.
Complaints aside I still really enjoyed reading "Welcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube", Braverman lets us peek into her vulnerable self that hides under the adventure seeker and arctic lover surface and I appreciated that. When describing her time in Norway she does a great job at capturing the quirky way of the Norlanders (though I did occasionally wonder how so much quirk can still be non-fiction). As a reader I definitely got more from the shop stories than her sometimes disturbingly helpless interaction with some of the men in her life, the father and daughter relationship she develops with the shopkeeper Arild is lovely to observe. Some of her self discoveries about men/ love and her part in it seem fairly obvious but maybe only so from an older point of view; I would be curious to see if younger readers (YA readers) respond more positive to this memoir.
All in all it wasn't quite what I was hoping for yet I managed to enjoy it enough to leave on a positive note. Because the dog and snow parts that were there were really good. But it needed more of that.
Profile Image for Anna.
999 reviews11 followers
July 19, 2016
Blair Braverman struggles with being a “tough girl”. She is able to withstand the cold and dark of the far north, drive a dogsled team, shear sheep, and survive being buried in the snow. She identifies with far north - Alaska, northern Norway. I thought this would be a book about exploring the north but instead it is a book about being a woman in a man's world, and it surely isn't pretty.

Braverman has a wonderful relationship with an elderly shopkeeper, Arild, in northern Norway. But other men in this man's world are more chilling than the weather. I was actually put off by the beginning of the book when an old man in Norway says he could have had sex with her without any reference to what she might want. When she is an exchange student in high school, her host father is absolutely inappropriate. But worst are the sexual assaults by her boyfriend, Dan, a fellow mushing guide in Alaska who spins his actions as love (it’s called rape, Dan). It takes several years before she figures out that sex isn't always like that. Braverman believes her experiences are no different to other women and her true coming-of-age is rejecting that notion.

I was distracted by the jumping between Norway/Arild and Alaska/Dan. I don't have any idea why it made sense to go between the two instead of being linear.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
15 reviews1 follower
January 13, 2017
Where to begin... this choppy story was tough to follow and I wish I had given up one of the five times I wanted to but I really hate being a quitter. So first and foremost you should know it was not about dogsledding or Norway or coldness.

It was about a girl, who was repeatedly abused by men in one form or another. The End.
So. Many. Odd. Decisions. I feel we're missing a big piece of the Blair Puzzle. What the hell happened to her as a child?!

You want to parent her the whole time...

- TELL your mother what Far is doing instead of sending cryptic emails to her hoping she'll figure it out!
- NO, you don't go on Helge's boat just because he called you! (And the fireside "party" was so fun!?)
- Get Dan OUT OF YOUR BED and don't allow him to treat you that way after the "break-up"!!
- No, petting your hair is NOT okay and don't pretend for a second that stopping Zoran at licking your neck is something to be proud of!
- Hey Arild- the rape joke wasn't funny! (And why was he let off the hook for that comment?)
- Tell Martin to go fuck himself! In fact, you can say the same thing to pretty much every character in this book.
- Anne Lill is not someone to look up to. Describing her husband as "he's kind, he doesn't beat me" is not the role model you need.

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