Maura Elizabeth's Reviews > Welcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube: Chasing Fear and Finding Home in the Great White North

Welcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube by Blair Braverman
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I first heard about Blair Braverman’s new memoir, Welcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube: Chasing Fear and Finding Home in the Great White North by reading an interview with her at Bitch magazine’s website (link to interview: https://www.bitchmedia.org/article/ic...). In the Q&A, Braverman admitted that she actually wrote two versions of her book manuscript: the first a sanitized “adventure narrative” telling a straightforward story of life in Alaska and Norway, the second a darker “female emergence narrative” (or, as her boyfriend calls it, a “traumoir”) that details the sexual assault and abuse Braverman has experienced while living in these northern communities. Privately, Braverman insisted that she was simply writing the second version of the manuscript for herself, as a way to work through her feelings about events in her past; she fully intended to publish the sanitized version.

When the time came to submit her manuscript, though, Braverman took a deep breath (and an Ativan) and sent her editor the more personal one. I have difficulty imagining what the sanitized version even looked like—an extended travel magazine article, maybe, that describes learning to drive sled dogs and the importance of a really good wool sweater when you’re living near the Arctic Circle. That book would have been interesting enough for those of us who have never visited these places, perhaps, but it would have conveyed a very superficial portrait of Braverman’s time in the North.

Because the real story, the one that made its way between the covers of Welcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube, is dark and suffocating and full of violence. In both Alaska and Norway, Braverman confronts what it means to be a woman living in communities marked by a culture of masculinity, where the way to prove that she belongs is by “keeping up with the boys” and not protesting when the men around her make sexually charged comments or invade her personal space. (“It’s okay for you to touch my hair, but please don’t lick my neck” is a line I’m going to remember for a long, long time.) Extreme environments—both natural and social—surround Braverman, and much of the book describes how she learned how to navigate them and become more confident in her ability to negotiate the world of the North.

Braverman does not only tell her own story in Welcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube; she also chronicles life in a small rural Norwegian town, Mortenhals. In this poor northern community, out-of-work fishermen spend their days sitting in the local general store drinking coffee while telling stories, and young men in search of wives turn to mail-order brides from Thailand. Mortenhals, Braverman notes, is “the Norway of witchcraft, storytelling, and incest, not minimalist furniture and the Nobel Peace Prize.” It’s the kind of place I very rarely read about and I welcomed the chance to learn more about Norway than what it’s like to take a cruise through the fjords.

Welcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube isn’t an easy book to read; Braverman’s sharp, immediate descriptions sometimes made me feel claustrophobic and overwhelmed just reading about experiences that she had undergone. (A story of being trapped under the snow was particularly terrifying, even though I knew she had obviously gotten free.) But if you take a deep breath and keep going—as Braverman did when she submitted this version of the manuscript, despite her fears—it’s also a fascinating look at life in parts of the world that are very rarely written about and the gender dynamics of these extreme environments.
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Reading Progress

Finished Reading
June 15, 2017 – Shelved

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